January 17, 2012
By Mona Davids, President, New York City Parents Union
Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo violated the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by exploiting and manipulating Dr. King’s legacy of empowerment to promote a cynical political agenda that victimizes public school students, their parents and the teachers who are the foundation of public education. Governor Cuomo is wrong to do this and we, as public school parents, call upon him to immediately stop and reassess his approach.
Governor Cuomo stated that he sees school reform as a continuation of Dr. King’s struggle. We agree with the Governor completely. However, rather than committing his administration to fully supporting education in the state’s public schools – support that would include compliance with court decisions mandating increased funding for New York City’s schools in particular – Governor Cuomo has chosen the well-financed drumbeat of so-called “reformers” who see the privatization of public education as an acceptable outcome. We know that Dr. King would not agree with this divisive and deceptive approach.
We know that Dr. King would never support bamboozling parents to accept a so-called “parent trigger” law that, in reality, manipulates parents into converting their schools to charter schools – charter schools that, in turn, will greatly diminish parental rights compared to those in place for non-charter school parents.
We know that Dr. King would never support a public education approach that promotes segregation between perceived “haves” and “have nots” through the co-location of charter schools within operating public school buildings.
We know that Dr. King would never support pitting African-American and Latino parents against teachers and other unionized workers in the public education system. The legacy of Dr. King and the struggles of organized labor are intertwined. It is Governor Cuomo who forgets that Dr. King supported organized labor here in New York State and that he died while in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting striking sanitation workers.
We are, unfortunately, not surprised by the Governor’s callousness. Mr. Cuomo also said in his State of the State address on January 4 that there is nobody lobbying for students. We strongly disagree because we, the parents, lobby for our children’s education every day.
We, the parents, have to endure the rhetoric and destructive plans of hedge-fund financed front organizations who applaud the closing of schools, the replacement of qualified veteran teachers with well-meaning under-trained rookies, and the abandonment of children with special needs and English Language Learners. These outcomes are not happening to Mr. Cuomo’s children or those of the hedge-funders; they are happening to Black, Latino and Asian children in overcrowded and under-resourced schools.
We, the parents, have to endure the co-location of charter schools that pay no rent for space in buildings where our children were denied small class sizes, music and art programs, quality libraries, adequate space for special needs students, and reasonable and safe lunch hours. Maybe Governor Cuomo’s Education Commissioner, Dr. John King, is comfortable — or must be comfortable — with the attack on public education. But the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would support true parent empowerment and would be standing with the real stakeholders—students and parents and teachers and the community.
Maybe Governor Cuomo’s Education Commissioner, Dr. John King, is comfortable — or must be comfortable — with the attack on public education. But the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would support true parent empowerment and would be standing with the real stakeholders—students and parents and teachers and the community.
New York’s parents — real parents untainted by well-financed organizers — want education legislation that truly empowers parents, not privatizers. We hear the real drumbeat of the civil rights movement. Therefore, the NYCPU Legislative Agenda for 2012 is our first step in the ongoing struggle to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. This agenda includes a parent empowerment policy that provides parents with choices for taking over failing schools — choices that don’t enrich privatizers. We welcome Governor Cuomo’s support for our Legislative Agenda.