Rejecting a ride later this month with the city Department of Education (DOE), the first independent Parents' Lobby Day took place last week when busloads of public school parents joined forces with teachers in Albany.
The DOE will make its official trip to Albany on March 28 and in the past, parents would go along. But this year, the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) voted in February to lobby with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) instead on March 14.
"The UFT is lobbying on an agenda that is closely aligned with our Parent Agenda, including demands for CFE (Campaign For Fiscal Equity) funding, class size reduction, universal Pre-K, and school safety," CPAC Chairperson Tim Johnson said in a letter dated February 27 inviting all parents to come and participate "in a history making event".
"This unprecedented coalition of parents and educators is a milestone in the ongoing struggle for empowerment, accountability, and transparency in our school system," Johnson said in the letter. The agenda includes demands that the governor and state legislature enforce the early grade class size program and requires that a significant portion of CFE funds be used to reduce class size in all grades. It also demands that parents of city schoolchildren be empowered to provide meaningful input in decision-making at all levels of the public school system. Finally, it opposes the use of standardized tests as the sole or primary criterion to determine whether a student should be promoted, retained, admitted to or graduated from public school and the lifting of the cap on charter schools. It also asks the legislature to deny the mayor authority to establish any more charter schools in New York City without significant input from parent organizations.
"It's always their (DOE) agenda, and we're just there for bodies," said Juan de la Cruz, a CPAC member with two children in Queens high schools, according to a February 10 New York Times report. "The only way we could voice what we want, what parents want, is to go on our own," de la Cruz said in the Times article.
CPAC specifically disagrees with DOE on the issue of charter schools. The mayor has been in favor of petitioning the state to increase the number of charter schools allowed in the city but in a February 16 article that appeared in New York Teacher, Johnson said, "Most parents strongly disagree with the concept of giving [Schools Chancellor Joel] Klein and [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg carte blanche to create charter schools."
The Community Education Council for District 30, at its March meeting held at I.S. 227 in East Elmhurst, said its initial effort to meet with local legislators was successful when the council hosted a legislative (hot buffet) dinner on March 9.
The council also met independently with CSA and UFT representatives for District 30 in January.
The state legislature gave Bloomberg control of the city public school system in 2002. He has since spent almost $50 million to hire parent coordinators for every school, create the Office of Parent Engagement and make school information available through 311. However, many parents say their role has been marginalized under mayoral control of the schools.