Parent perspective on New York City schools

To Carl Campanile
New York Post
February 20, 2004

From Elizabeth Carson


I am extremely disappointed with your choices in references and quotes to represent parent perspective in NYC in recent months.

Advocates for Children is not NYC parents.

UPA, an organization I'd love to see grow and develop into the promise it could hold as an independent citywide parent organization, is currently a very small struggling organization, so small in membership and participation in recent years that elections have had to be postponed because there weren't enough members present to hold an election. Former leadership was siphoned off by Chancellor Klein, and placed in parent cocordinator and oversight positions.

Even CPAC, at present a far more active and representative parent organization than UPA, can not claim to be the voice of NYC parents. It is comprised of parents, elected from a pool of participating PA presidents in some number of active districts. Ask the average parent what they think of their PA president. Ask the average parent if they've even heard of CPAC. Ask the average [paretn if they've ever been to a Presidents Council meeting, if they've ever answered a survey of views and opinions from Presidents Council, CPAC, UPA or even Advocates for Children.

Review the testimony heard at Sanders' second round of hearings on the education councils. The majority view as far as I can determine, is that parents see their PA executive boards (when they are functioning at all) as most often with mixed allegiences, agendas, and tend to come down most often aligned with the administration. Most PA executives do not seek out the views and opinions of their parent body and in the rare cases where they do, it is with a process less than fair or reflective of a democratic system. PA executive boards do not advocate well for the interests and concerns of their parents. At the District level, Presidents Council is even more remote from the voice of the parents. At the citywide level, CPAC is another degree remote and disconnected from the voice of parents. I have participated in all these organizations and do not mean to suggest that there are not well intentioned, well meaning, thoughtful and hard working parents involved with each. I am suggesting their posturing as representative of the views and values of the parent body at large is bogus, none can fairly or honestly hold claims to be the voice of NYC parents.

I know you work very hard, quickly, and are always on deadline, and mean well.

I am troubled by the implications of statements, for example like, "moms and dads like the report-card plan" (Parents to Make the Grade, February 20, 2004) and followed with quotes from AFC, UPA and a school board member. It suggests some sort of consensus or majority view has been determined among parents. Nothing could be further from the truth, not on the issue of report cards, retention, class size, reorganization, community education councils, testing and Regents exams, adequate funding or curriculum.

Great care should be assumed by the mainstream media to offer to the degree possible broad and balanced coverage of these controversial and complex issues in education reform, with inclusion of the naturally occurring diversity of views and opinions. To do otherwise is to perform an extreme disservice to our community and is counterproductive to the interests of bettering public education in NYC.


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