By Mona Davids | March 5, 2015 |
My heart was in Albany yesterday, with the thousands of students and parents demanding an end to the system that condemns New York City students, mostly poor and minority, to failing schools that have failed to educate children for generations.
After all, my group, the NYC Parents Union, is an independent grass-roots organization of public-school parents that advocates for the right of every child in the city schools to a safe, high-quality education.
But I couldn’t go up to Albany (though others from our group did): I’m committed to an afternoon academic-intervention program at my school.
The program is something we parents set up in a desperate attempt to make up for Mayor de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers cutting “extended day” instruction in their last contract.
And that’s the real issue here: For decades, the interests of the teachers union and its members have been put before the education and futures of our children.
But the days of students being held hostage by the United Federation of Teachers are coming to an end.
In New York City, 143,000 students are trapped in persistently failing schools. Every single day, our children’s futures are being stolen. At 75 city schools, all students in at least one grade failed the state math or reading test.
Citywide, 65 percent of students failed the state math tests; 71 percent failed the English exam.
Our children can’t wait any longer for the teachers union to put our children’s education first.
Parents are demanding options. Charter schools, like magnet schools, are options for families whose children are condemned to failing schools because of their ZIP code — but that’s not enough.
Another good idea: Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to take persistently failing schools into receivership, so they can be restructured and run by nonprofits or charter-management groups. That, too, begins to finally put our children’s interests first.
We applaud the governor for standing up for our children. But his ideas don’t go far enough.
In hundreds of city schools, more than half of all students aren’t reading, writing and doing math at grade level. My son’s school, PS106x in The Bronx, is one of these schools.
Across The Bronx, 65,000 children are stuck in failing schools.
These schools are held hostage by the teachers-union contract, which gives self-interested teachers the right to refuse to make any changes, including extending the school day or providing extra instruction time so students can learn.
Cuomo’s receivership proposal doesn’t help these students and parents. It targets the very worst schools, but not the greater number of still-failing ones. In these schools, desperate requests to restructure the school to improve the educational outcomes of students is held hostage by the UFT contract. The contract says no changes to the schools our children attend can be made without the teachers’ approval — even when the school has been failing for years.
It is time for parents to take control and use the power vested in us under state law — and convert our failing schools to charters.
That will let us have a longer school day and longer year, as well as rigorous academic instruction — plus arts, music, sports and other extracurriculars for our children.
Under this law, parents decide which nonprofit or charter-management outfit they want to work with to fix their school. Here in New York, empowered parents at five schools have already voted and converted their schools to charters.
Mona Davids is the founder and president of the New York City Parents Union, www.nycparentsunion.org.