(Albany, NY) At the 2017 NY State Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators' Annual Conference, StudentsFirstNY teamed up with Assembly Member Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) to host a panel discussion on how to offer parents great school choices for their children, particularly those living in communities of color. The panel was moderated by NYCAN Executive Director Derrell Bradford and featured elected officials and a diverse panel of education advocates, including:
Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, D-Bronx (Co-Sponsor of Panel)
Senator Marisol Alcantara, D-Manhattan
Senator Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn
Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, D-Long Island
Assembly Member Victor Pichardo, D-Bronx
Assembly Member Nick Perry, D-Brooklyn
Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, D-East Harlem
Dr. Jere Hochman, Deputy Education Secretary to Governor Cuomo
Tenicka Boyd, Senior Director of Organizing for StudentsFirstNY
Charlie King, NYC Co-Chairman of Mercury Public Affairs
Au Hogan, Queens Parent and Grandparent and Associate Director of Life Camp
- Charlene Corbett, a community resource coordinator for community schools P.S. 335 and M.S. 584 in Brooklyn
To view the full the highlights of this robust discussion, click here.
Assembly Member Marcos Crespo opened the panel, speaking about the importance of providing students in low-income communities great opportunities in education.
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo: “I want to remind people that we can’t talk about students of color without acknowledging the fact that many of the schools that are nontraditional public schools are serving black and latino students. And so, the question I have is and I hope we explore is: ‘How do we all serve our kids better.’”
The panel was about finding how New York’s school system can best serve communities of color. Moderator Derrell Bradford asked some questions to specific panelists, others to the whole group, and then invited questions from the audience. Derrell started the discussion by asking: "Some folks—myself among them—are arguing we should give more choices to parents. How important is it to you to give parents more choice about where they send their child to school?"
Senator Marisol Alcantara: "What am I going to tell a parent that makes a sacrifice and says 'you know what, I think this school is the best school are the best schools for my kids.' It's easy for some of my colleagues to say that because their kids go to Columbia Prep or Fieldston, but none of you guys can afford $42,000 for your kids. A lot of us that claim to be progressive; we need to understand that black and Latino parents in the city are crying for help.”
Tenicka Boyd, StudentsFirstNY: "Our parents care about the quality of teachers and that they have access to quality of schools and when they go down the street to their neighborhood school, that their kid is learning everything that they need to learn."
Assembly Member Michaelle Solages: "We can't lose another generation of black and brown students. We cannot do that. I'm here to do whatever possible to get the possible education to every student, no matter what they look like, no matter who they are."
Another question came from Christopher Lane, a student at KIPP Infinity Middle School, a charter school in Harlem. He asked: "What can I do to encourage more of these schools to open in my neighborhood and across New York City?"
Senator Kevin Parker: ‘There are good things happening, innovative things happening in charter schools and we need to continue to be innovative and give every single child the kind of choices that charters are offering, not just in charters, but in our traditional public schools.”
Derrell asked Au Hogan, public school parent & grandparent: "Did you have a choice in where to send your kids and grandkids to school and how did that choice – or lack of choice – impact their education?"
Au Hogan, Queens Parent and Grandparent: “I remember that it got so bad with choices that, we started to get together in the mid ‘80s where we had to tell other parents to change their address, just to get into a better school. So we had to take a choice of breaking the law and then we had to weigh breaking the law is a misdemeanor, still I have to make sure that my child goes to a good school. So we took that sacrifice. So choices are necessary.”
Derrell asked Dr. Jere Hochman: "What steps has Governor Cuomo and New York State taken to ensure families in communities of color have access to true school choice?"
Dr. Jere Hochman, NY State Deputy Secretary for Education: “The Governor’s proposal does lift the cap on charter schools in any particular areas. So the entire group of slots that are open now, which is now over 100 would be available in any part of the state; meaning New York City could possibly expand charter schools and provide opportunities for parents to have some choice.”
Public School parent Crystal Lee-McJunkin from Jamaica, Queens asked the panel: "When parents like me want to push for changes and improvements in my school, how should I be engaging with my local elected officials?"
Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, D-East Harlem: “It’s about continued vigilance to make sure that our kids get the quality resources and education that they deserve, and that’s everybody.”
Assembly Member Nick Perry: "Thank you to all of you who came up here to personally to talk about strategies about moving forward."
The panel also explored how parents can find a good school for their child. Derrell asked: "When we all say we want ‘great’ schools, what exactly do we mean by that – what does a great school look like to you and what policies make it easier or harder to get more of them??"
Assembly Member Victor Pichardo: "It doesn't matter if you if you are in a school on the Upper West Side, if you are in a school in Soundview or you are in a school in University Heights if you are in a school with a lot of parental involvement, the school is going to be successful."
Charlie King, Mercury Public Affairs: "Without education our children will have an economic death sentence. Pick any corporation, in America or in New York and think about at the top levels at that corporation, how many people at the highest levels have only a high school diploma? The answer is probably none. Think about in jail, how many people there have a PhDs?; the answer is probably very few. That’s really all you need to know about why choice is so important, when we are talking about education."
StudentsFirstNY would like to thank all of the elected officials and panelists who participated in this forum, as well as the hundreds of parents and students who attended this event.
Saturday, February 18, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (Photos: Mike Groll; Copyright: Mike Groll Photography www.mikegroll.com firstname.lastname@example.org)