An open letter to Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott

4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Dear Mr. Deputy Mayor:

I read your op-ed in yesterday's New York Post, and I must say I agree with you on one point. Yes, education is a civil rights issue. But you are on the wrong side of the tracks.

While the UFT does protect teachers, good and bad (and that is something that must be fixed), I know in my heart that the teachers want to teach young people and that the answer to the city's education problems is not just to close down 19 schools, but to figure out ways to make those schools work.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the NAACP and other advocacy groups are within their rights to fight against these measures because the city is just plain wrong on the issues. It is like you folks in City Hall at the top of the mountain know what is best for all of us down at the bottom of the hill. By taking away any sense of parental involvement and going to mayoral control, you have said, "We know better for your children."

But what do the parents have to say about the way their children are educated? Do they have a right to be involved, or do you think it should just be the DOE that makes all the decisions from on high and then the little people carry out your demands?

You said in your op-ed that the Brown vs. Board of Education suit was "the civil-rights issue of that day...And yet, more than half a century later, we are still failing to protect the interests of our African-American and Latino children. Here in New York City, the graduation rate for African-American and Latino students is rising, but it remains just over 50 percent. These outcomes reflect a crisis that is devastating our communities. It is the civil-rights issue of our time." But what you fail to talk about is that is City Hall that is failing to protect. Again, you feel as though you can take it all away from the parents and dictate what is right for their children.

The real question is why the failing schools have not been able to be turned around. Is it because it just can't be done, or is it because if you let the schools fall far enough down, you can, with the stroke of a pen, close them and open up smaller ones in the same space? Is that really an answer?

We don't need to replace the schools. We need to replace the system. Let parents have a say; let young people have a say. Give us back our schools, and let's change the way the whole game is played. And in the end, our children and our communities must come out as the winners.

With great hope for the future of our children,

Elinor Tatum

Publisher and Editor in Chief