Mayor de Blasio at school (photo: @NYCMayorsOffice)
Since taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made our City's 1.1 million school children a priority: providing free, full-day, high-quality pre-kindergarten for every four-year-old; giving historically struggling schools aggressive resources they need to turn around; providing members of Citywide and Community Education Councils robust training; expanding dual-language programs for English Language Learners; encouraging collaborative pedagogy; and giving parents a meaningful voice in public education. These reforms would all be nearly impossible for the system to accomplish without the alignment of the Mayor's vision, Chancellor Carmen Fariña's leadership, and, ultimately, mayoral control of our city's schools.
We are public-school parents – the parent of a child with a disability, and a parent and longtime advocate for children of immigrants and English Language Learners. And, the Panel for Educational Policy on which we sit is made up of believers in public education and advocates for communities across every corner of New York City. There is an uninformed assumption among some that as mayoral appointees we are less engaged when it comes to our PEP responsibilities. This is far from the truth.
As members of the PEP we are committed to all students and truly believe that in partnership with parents, students, teachers, the administration, and other stakeholders, we can make real progress for our young people. Along with our fellow members of the panel, we participate in countless meetings with the DOE and in communities across the city. We have lively debates on hotly-contested issues in order to make informed decisions. The stakeholder meetings we have had during the colocation process are a major step forward and exemplify the administration's commitment to transparency and collaboration. Panel members do the necessary homework and then some - and we push for answers to difficult questions to ensure we are making educated decisions.
Transparency is a naturally controversial topic surrounding mayoral control. But there is no question that for the last 13 years mayoral control of our city's schools has led to more transparency and improved student outcomes. Continuing this critical trajectory of improvement – raising educational standards, creating commonsense solutions, strengthening family and community ties – takes time and, quite frankly, is impossible to do without mayoral control of the city's school system.
Yes, our schools still face challenges, but mayoral control means clear lines of accountability. All children deserve a great school. All families deserve a voice – and mayoral control gives us just that. Mayoral control must be extended for many years – because the success of future generations of New Yorkers depends on it.
Vanessa Leung and Lori Podvesker are Chair and Vice-Chair of the Panel for Educational Policy, respectively, and New York City public school parents.