Wednesday, May 13, 2020
NYC Chancellor Says He Will Not "Waste A Good Crisis", Then Slashes Fellowships and Scraps Grading in K-8
City parents are warring over representation in the high stakes debate over screened school admissions.
One faction argues that the Department of Education has given a partisan advocacy group a pivotal role — a claim the agency denies.
The DOE tapped the Education Council Consortium — whose co-chairs oppose screened schools — to conduct a video meeting on the issue Saturday to collect parental opinion.
Helmed by Shino Tanikawa and NeQuan McLean, the ECC is an independent advocacy group comprised of elected Community Education Council members who choose to opt into the organization. CECs are parental advisory boards present in every city district.
The DOE asserted that Saturday’s meeting is only the beginning of their parent engagement process and that critics were overstating its impact on a final decision.
Some parents — particularly those in favor of preserving schools with academics-based admissions — note that the ECC successfully sought an exemption from open meeting laws in January.
Len Silverman, a member of the DOE-recognized Chancellors Parent Advisory Committee of parent association presidents, questioned the arrangement this week.
“We’re the elected parent leaders, we represent parents from each district,” Silverman said during a CPAC meeting with DOE officials Thursday. “The ECC is a private advocacy group and they have no formal role in the DOE.”
Silverman said Saturday’s meeting could confuse city parents as to the basis of their representation.
“It seems like we’re conflating the ECC with CPAC,” he said. “Although the ECC does some great work and I’d like to acknowledge their efforts, there are other groups such as Class Size Matters, PLACE, that also do great work. My question is, what role are private advocacy groups going to have in terms of these decisions that are being made?”
Arguing that it draws members from across the ideological spectrum, McClean staunchly defended the ECC’s role in Saturday’s meeting and its work on matters of equity and school desegregation overall.
“The Education Council Consortium, a collective of elected parent leaders representing all intersections of race, age, nationality, religion, and ability in NYC, will continue to advocate for every child, not merely a select few,” McLean told The Post.
The group, which meets regularly with schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, has more than 200 members from across the city, according to its website.
Tanikawa and McLean, both members of Mayor de Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group, have called for the elimination of screened schools, calling them unfair instruments of racial segregation.
They also oppose the specialized high school admissions test and the structure of Gifted and Talented programs.
The ECC’s Twitter account argues in favor of screened school elimination, arguing that they unfairly favor those with resources at the expense of low-income kids black and Hispanic students.
CEC 26 president Adriana Aviles noted this week that the ECC remains a largely unknown entity among parents in her Queens district.
“That’s where some of the frustration is right now,” she said. “The average parent has no idea what the ECC is. Even a lot of CEC members don’t know what it is or what it does. Communities feel that they have not been represented properly in these conversations.”
The presidents of three CECs, Philip Wong, Deborah Alexander and Maud Maron, sent a letter to schools Carranza this week objecting to the DOE’s handling of parent engagement.
All three are members of the ECC but contend that the group is tightly managed and insufficiently transparent.
“We cannot adequately express our deep disappointment in the dishonest and faithless way in which the DOE has decided to pretend to listen to parent communities,” it states. “Many communities were ignored in the formulating of the Grading Policy and now those same communities are being promised engagement in public when the reality is a fake, pre-ordained process, behind closed doors.”
The letter argued that the DOE should hold formal public meetings with individual CECs.
McLean fired back, arguing that their opposition was misplaced given inequities in the school system.
“It is unfortunate that, in a world where reporting has highlighted our city as one of the most segregated school systems in the country, certain people are resorting to aggressive, hostile, cruel personal attacks against those fighting for equity,” McLean said.
A DOE spokeswoman stressed that the ECC will be one of many groups they will engage on the screening issue in the coming weeks and months.
“We are coordinating citywide engagements with parent leaders and the public—there are no secretive policy decisions made with any one group,” said Katie O’Hanlon. “We’re going to hear all parent voices on equal footing, not just the loudest ones, and won’t decide on a policy until we do.”