Dear Mayor de Blasio:
We look forward to the progressive change your administration has promised to our city that is burdened with 20 years of corporate-centered rule. We hope it reverses the institutionalized, virulent and racist citizen disenfranchisement that has caused what you have called our “tale of two cities.”
To address the ever-deepening education crisis caused by unjust governance, we understand that a truly progressive mayor would implement policies and structures to:
• Dismantle a system that alienates parents from every aspect of their child’s educational development, as well as advocate for and establish a school governance structure that is rooted in the understanding that “Education is a Human Right,” expressed through a democratic system of neighborhood school-centered governance.
• Provide, at last, the entire public school system with complete educational equity in the areas of participation, access, resources and outcomes for all students at all levels from pre-K through college.
• Immediately end charter school colocations, beginning with the rushed end-term colocations, to allow adequate space for the additional pre-K seats and begin without delay the law-mandated charter school rent payments.
• Establish structures that ensure equitable and transparent input and participation of parents or guardians, teachers and community in both school governance and the education of their children.
• Allow teachers, administrators and communities to adapt the curricular content and process to the needs and interests of the children entrusted to them in ways that demonstrate successful engagement.
• Re-establish the Office of Multicultural Curricula, which is essential to promote and validate multiple and diverse perspectives about culture and history among our diverse students, teachers and administrators, particularly educational and cultural excellence for Black and Latino children.
• Reverse immediately the shrinking number of Black and Latino educators by establishing a 10-year “neighbor teacher” campaign that recruits and educates New York City citizens (including a “K-12 Become-a-Teacher” campaign who desire to be educators.
• Lower class sizes and require differentiated instruction to ensure that all children acquire the skills and concepts they need to be happy, contributing citizens of a democratic society.
• Recreate new, independent, non-charter, culturally based schools that have, for example, African-centered, Latino-centered curricula that work collaboratively with other schools.
• Develop high–quality vocational and career education for diverse student interests and capacities, including persons with disabilities.
• Refund and rebuild a high– quality citywide adult educational program that is designed for the civic, intellectual and work demands of the 21st century.
• Advocate for and establish “Home Rule” (like the majority of the other New York school systems) over the political and policy oversight of the Board of Education instead of being ruled over by the New York state legislative body.
• End the high–stakes testing approach to student and teacher evaluations and establish proven alternative forms of assessment that both cultivate and evaluate a child’s intellectual development without penalizing the student, the teacher or the administration and school.
• Provide systemwide policies and procedures of accountability and professional support to promote the constructive development of teachers, administrators and supervisors at all levels.
• Immediately mandate music, art and physical education programs within every school, K-12, using surplus funds.
• Immediately ensure that all charter school teachers have the same educational licenses and accountability requirements as traditional teachers and have the ability to be union members in exactly the same way as their non-charter colleagues.
• Ensure that student, teacher and administrator discipline policies and procedures in all public and charter schools are unbiased and humane at both the school and central levels.
• Immediately de-deputize school safety from the New York Police Department and re-establish a citywide teacher-parent-child greeter program for every school.
• De-privatize numerous services that were once done by local unionized municipal workers, like building maintenance, food services and computer technology.
• Immediately end no-bid contracts and outrageously high bidding thresholds that have pushed Black and Latino vendors completely out of the bidding process.
Indeed, a truly progressive mayor like yourself should see the year 2014 as the beginning of New York City’s education reconstruction, and that come June 2015, a democratic school structure will be born from the recognition that mayoral control has underserved us with an undemocratic, deeply racist and corporatized structure. It has dehumanized our children as “products,” provided parents with false “choices” as well as divisive competition and, finally, reduced our teachers to mere proctors for their testing industry.
Consequently, a truly progressive mayor would immediately establish an “Education Reconstruction Team” comprised of education activist parents, students, educators and community citizens along with local neighborhood business people to assist you in holding a series of 2014 town hall “Education Vision” meetings. Here we will hear from our neighbors about what a new, human rights-based school system might look like. This way, we all can finally move beyond venting sessions about what is wrong, to envisioning and actualizing positive attributes of a school system that will help all our children have a truly good time learning.
The Independent Commission on Public Education