It has taken days of recovery, mending exhausted bodies and saddened souls, to write our post- PEP Meeting/blatant undermining of public education January extravaganza- comments. It is interesting how one month, culminating in one nearly 12 hour meeting, can both be inspiring and depressing, both a confirmation of our belief in humanity and a questioning of it. If we were spiritually empty, if we were cynical, we would believe that 'the people' should just give up, clearly the game is fixed. Luckily we are not, instead we vow to fight, until our last breath, to protect and preserve public education for our children.
Over the month of January the education reform debate, and the tools at the center of it (namely school closings and charter school invasions and propagation), have been in the spotlight in New York City. We have heard testimony across the city in hearings, meetings, forums, and at protests, largely criticizing Mayor Bloomberg's educational policies and the agenda of his Administration. There were some voices of support, mainly from his camp and from the charter school movement camp (one in the same). What struck us throughout all of these voices and chatter, was the groundswell of support and belief that public schools are in fact the centers of our communities and are in fact the pillar of our democracy.
On January 26th, thousands of parents, students, teachers, and citizens showed up to demand an end to Mayor Bloomberg's educational agenda. Hundreds spoke out. The lone voices that night in favor of what Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein proposed, were charter school founders and supporters from PAVE Academy and their friend, charter parent advocate, Mona Davids. One mayoral appointee from Brooklyn on the PEP, spoke as well, stating she did not see the students at the center of this month's debate as 'failures' and that they were committed to a 'vision'. We'd like to hear more about this vision.
Our vision includes support and resources for community public schools, formulas and space allocations that ensure special needs students get the services they need as well as alloting for intervention, enrichment and community services. Our vision encompasses the idea that there are great public schools, that we should use these schools as models; that if this was really about what is best for children and true education reform, we would be adding resources, not taking them away.
We could use this post to discuss the lies the PAVE Academy supporters touted, we could note line by line all of the laws that were blatantly violated this month. We could choose to highlight and explain all the reasons why the Bloomberg Administration's educational policies are destructive and flawed. Instead today, we will simply say this: the fight is only just beginning.
Life after January 26th has taught us much. We have learned to hold on to eachother and our shared vision that public education is worth defending and protecting. We have learned the value of our founding document and our First Amendment rights, and now cherish them more than ever before. We have learned there are amazing people in this city and across this country that share our vision; we are united in a common purpose. We have learned that advocacy takes the energy, cooperation, and dedication of all stakeholders involved and we must work together for our common cause; fortunate for us we have an amazing team of parents and teachers who have only been brought closer together through all of this, we are so filled with abundance due to the friendships and true sense of family we have further built. We have learned that, for our part, this is all about our children- doing right by them and advocating on their behalf. We have learned that even in the darkest hours and against the fiercest and most powerful forces, we can stand up, make our voices heard, and turn the tide on a climate of indifference and inevitability.
Life after January 26th is new lungs exhaling sullied air... it is a new beginning.