Sunday, March 24, 2019

The WAVE: SRO at Jackson Heights Education Forum with Ravitch, AOC and others

Published March 22, 2019,

(See videos at: Videos: Jackson Heights Ed Forum - From Michael Elliot.)

School Scope: SRO at Jackson Heights Education Forum with Ravitch, AOC and others

By Norm Scott

A star-studded education forum organized by the Jackson Heights People for Public Schools was held on March 16. Among the speakers were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the district in Congress, NY Senators Jessica Ramos and Assembly member Catalina Cruz, who represent the district in the Legislature, as well as Senators Robert Jackson and John Liu. Among the terrific education advocates who spoke were Johanna Garcia of NYC Opt out, Maria Bautista of AQE, Carol Burris of Network for Public Education, the great education true reformer Diane Ravitch, Kate Menken of the NYS Association for Bilingual Education and Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.

What would be a normal educational forum turned into a major event due to the star power of AOC and Ravitch. The Jackson Heights People for Public Schools were among AOC’s first supporters. Their mission is: “We work to educate the community about the public schools in Jackson Heights and to support parents and members of the community who wish to make our schools even better.” How great to see grassroots groups springing up to organize resistance to ed deform and offer a progressive alternative.

One of the founders and leaders of the group is parent activist Amanda Vender, currently a NYC high school teacher. I first met Amanda over a decade ago - I think she was working with the newspaper Indy Kids and I was distributing some of them to some people in the schools. Eventually Amanda became a teacher and parent. I distinctly remember her bringing her few weeks old child to some forum we were running. She and her group are bringing a pro-public school, pro opt-out, progressive vision of education to her own community. Thinking about her work made me realize that the work inside a union opposition I’ve been doing begins to look meaningless compared to the organizing work Amanda and others have done in their communities. If I had done similar work in Rockaway - (and of course if I had kids I might have), I would have been much more useful than I was pushing the boulder uphill in UFT opposition politics. Maybe next life. Amanda Vender is a model for educational organizing. Amanda not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

Last week I wrote about the March 9 Parent Action Conference sponsored by NYC Kids PAC, Class Size Matters and Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2) which was attended by progressive politicians. There were workshops on class size, how to opt out of testing, how to run for office, advocating for children with special needs in English and Spanish, protecting student privacy, school integration, fighting charters. We also watched a film called Testing about the culture around taking the controversial SHSAT for specialized high schools like Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx HS of Science. NYC Kids PAC and Class Size Matters have formed their legislative agenda for 2019 around these and other issues: Amending mayoral control to provide for more oversight over the dictatorship over the schools held by the mayor, funding for class size reduction, a moratorium on new charters and stronger accountability and transparency, fees on developers to go into a fund for new school construction, a pied-a-terre tax for homes worth over $5 million, and an explicit law giving parents the right to opt out of 3-8th grade standardized tests. Politicians who want Kids Pac endorsement are being asked to sign on to this agenda. I wonder how many Rockaway politicians would agree: Eric, Stacey, Joe, Donovan, Michele, James, Melinda? Lou?

Music recommendation: Good Citizen by Mighty Sparrow -

Norm blog mindlessly about education and politics at

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