Regina Morgan joined forces with over 350 public school parents in a mayoral forum on 2 May 2013, to demand answers about the future of her children’s
education. With her two kids attending PS-29 in Cobble Hill, she added her voice to that of concerned parents over Mayor Bloomberg’s educational policies.
“The current system has to change,” Morgan said. “This defensive strategy in which children are made to learn how to take tests in order to keep their schools open is not what a true education is about.”
New York is one of 10 major U.S. cities in which the educational system is under the control of the mayor rather than an elected school board. During the past decade, more than 140 schools have been closed or phased out and replaced by smaller charter schools based on an evaluation system that takes into account students’ performance on standardized tests.
But there might be some good news in the horizon for parents like Morgan. The mayoral candidates taking part in the forum asserted that Bloomberg’s current school rating system would be a thing of the past if any of them was to take over City Hall this coming November.
Organized by Parent Voices of NY and The Alliance for Quality Education, groups that are highly critical of the current mayor’s educational policies, the two-hour long forum held at PS-29 last week, came as part of a season of campaigns to usher in a new administration after Bloomberg’s decade-long reign on the city.
Four Democratic candidates took part in the discussion: Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and Bill Thompson- the fifth Christine Quinn and all the non-Democratic candidates did not attend. All four seemed to take a unified front in alliance with the parents who organized the event and moderator Diane Ravitch, an outspoken critic of the Bloomberg administration. They all spoke against Bloomberg’s policies with special emphasis on the use of high stake testing to rank schools.
“High stake testing is demoralizing our teachers and staff,” said Albanese. “School should be a happy place, not where children are stressed out.” The crowd cheered when his opponent De Blasio said “I don’t want my child to learn how to take a test, I want my child to learn!”
The other two candidates, Liu and Thompson made virtually the same points. “Testing should be used as a tool and not an endgame,” said Liu.
The forum revolved around four main questions poised by concerned parents and reiterated by Ravitch: Parent involvement in the decision-making process, high stake testing, class size, and charter schools.
For the most part, the candidates regurgitated the same rhetoric that criticized the way the current administration has been handling the educational dossier.
Most of those in the crowd that packed the PS-29 auditorium seemed to be pleased with what the mayoral hopefuls had to say, but some did not fully accept the structure of the event.
“The forum was a pep rally for those who the share the same point of view,” said Douglas Hanau a PS-29 parent on a comment board afterwards on the gothamschools website. “The forum assumed everyone has the same point of view Bloomberg is horrible, we should spend more money on the arts, testing is bad.”