Sunday, April 22, 2007

Parents speak out....

Emails from the NYCEducationNews List: writes

The ironic thing is that neither Martine Guerrier, nor her employer the DoE, have, or ought to have, any say on who's included in that coalition. It does appear, though, that the majority of the coalition members ceded control of the makeup of the coalition to the DoE.

The "compromises" reached here are a collective failure by the DoE-aligned groups to adequately represent their constituents. Even to suggest that the immigration groups "got a lot" is probably wrong, since
the immigration constituency and the special ed constituency overlap with each other as much as with any other constituency.

It appears to me that the leaders of the larger groups are attempting to score symbolic points for political usage. The leaders of the smaller groups have been suckered into thinking they're going to advance their
causes with "a seat at the table". It's all very pathetic.

Fair Student Funding is fundamentally flawed. A renegotiation of weights for different needs groups doesn't address the core problem one bit.

The cogent and critical arguments against the impoverished brand of standardized test - based "accountability" have been cast aside; our students will continue to be trained as test takers.

The concessions on teacher salary do not address the essential problem that principals will still have an incentive to give unduly high priority to cost cutting.

There are no substantive gains on the issue of class size -- the DoE will work hard to water down the regulations currently awaited from the state, and has only committed to "develop[ing] a ... set of
recommendations on how best to implement the regulations" recommendation Frog has more teeth than that.

Members of the organizations who betrayed the coalition need to understand that their breach of trust will make forming the next coalition far more difficult. The way this was conducted is a gross insult to the people who showed up at rallies, who wrote letters and sent faxes, who campaigned personally and got the word out in communities, with the understanding that a broad coalition had our backs.

Richard Barr, VP of District 3 (PTA) Presidents Council writes:

Much has been written on these lists in the aftermath of the press conference earlier this week announcing an "agreement" among the administration, UFT and others about modifications to the planned reorganization of the school system.

In my opinion, public school parents, who themselves don't always speak with one voice on schools issues, are sometimes on the same page with other entities, sometimes partially so, and sometimes not at all. So although gatherings, press conferences, demonstrations and "agreements" attract more attention when they bring together coalitions of forces, an event peopled primarily by parents and, perhaps, their schoolchildren is a more accurate rendition of what we really think and want to see happen (or not happen) with the school system.

I agree with others who have written that we should go ahead with the previously planned City Hall demo about putting the reorganization on hold, whether it's on May 9 or another day. Many of us have been passing resolutions in our schools and districts asking that the reorganization be placed on hold until it can be properly vetted. Instead, we were informed that it was the demo that had been put "on hold", by not-specifically-named others, and soon after, a press conference with the Mayor, Chancellor, other officials, the Union, and other groups convened to announce an "agreement" to modify parts of the reorganization and move forward.

No one was speaking specifically for, or was authorized to speak specifically for, the bulk of the parents at that press conference, although, again, it's near impossible to characterize precisely what the bulk of the parents want from issue to issue, or who can really speak for them.

So let's have an event where we speak for ourselves, even if that isn't in one neat voice. Mixed gatherings have previously been spun by the disgraceful right-wing tabloid editorialists, and the columnists, op-ed commentators, and think-tankers on the same page with them (as well as, lamentably, some of the elected and appointed officials who control the schools) as puppet shows where one entity (the Union) is pulling everyone else's strings.

If sympathetic public officials wish to stand with us, that would be nice, but we need to make clear that we, on our own, have real issues and that the idea wasn't just put into our heads by others with their own agendas. And we don't need to be co-opted, picked off one-by-one, or to have others claim to be speaking for us if they are primarily speaking for themselves.

So let's just do it, even if organizing it and getting attention paid to it will be more difficult without the weight of the P.R. apparatuses of others behind us.

Richard Barr
V.P., District 3 Presidents' Council

from Leonie Haimson:

People have asked me about the history of these negotiations – which I was only peripherally involved in. This is what I know:

A week ago last Friday, there were several hours of negotiations at City Hall between the City and the UFT, ACORN, and some other advocacy and parent groups in the loose association that had formed. I was not invited and did not participate. I found out about this only after the fact, on late Friday, when I was told that some sort of deal had been worked out, but was not told the details. I did learn that some sort of concession had been made on the part of the DOE that they would try to work with the UFT and our coalition, NYers for Smaller Classes, as well as other stakeholders, to draw up the city’s class size reduction plan. There were also concessions made to the various groups who were more directly involved in the negotiations. On Saturday morning, there was supposed to be a meeting at the UFT office to go over the details, w/ a possible press conference to follow.

Sat. morning before I left home, the whole deal was called off, apparently by the city.

Switch to Thursday afternoon. I participated along with many other groups, including CPAC, in a conference call, where elements of the agreement were discussed in more detail. It was clear that the city had agreed not to cut the budgets for any school for at least two years – a big concession as far as I was concerned. The Immigration Coalition had the city’s agreement to raise the weights of ELL students; there were also separate agreements that DOE would work w/ CEJ on middle school reform, the Urban Youth Collaborative on their Student Success Centers, and some other points. At 3:15 Pm, I heard that a press conference was set for 3:30 PM at City Hall. I rushed down to City Hall. The main reason I went was I wanted to see exactly what the Mayor and the Chancellor would say about class size. (which turned out to be little.)

I felt then and feel now that the city made major concessions – and received few in return. The City agreed not to cut school budgets (which is a very big deal for my son’s school and many other schools throughout the city – which justly feared losing millions of dollars.) I also felt and still feel that in good conscience I could not reject the opportunity to talk directly to DOE and test their willingness to collaborate on their class size reduction plan – however this process turns out.

Among those at the press conference, standing behind the Mayor, next to Randi and the other groups who were there, were Robert Jackson and Luis Reyes – two men whose integrity and commitment to the cause of public schools no one could possibly question. I don’t feel as though any of us sold anyone else out. I certainly don’t accept that any of us “used…our children as pawns in some elaborate power-driven chess game.”

I think that if parents want to hold the rally on their own on May 9 that’s great. We can help publicize it on the list servs and the blog and elsewhere. I also feel that the most important thing now is to continue working so that our schools can be fundamentally reformed, to make all the changes that our children really need. Clearly this agreement is only one modest step, to forestall some but not all the destructive aspects of the reorganization. The outcome of the process of talking directly w/ DOE is uncertain and there is so much work to be done. I know I will continue to fight for real change, and I hope others will be there too.

Leonie Haimson

Class Size Matters

124 Waverly Pl.

New York, NY 10011


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