Primary Election Day in New York City is Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Early voting began on the 12th and runs through the 20th. As I have stressed over and over, who the mayor is has a much greater effect on your child’s education than who the governor is, who the president is, or who the U.S. Secretary of Education is.
If you care about NYC schools, #VoteLocal. Vote for your City Councilperson, vote for your Borough President (they appoint members of the Community Education Councils), vote for Comptroller, and definitely vote for Mayor.
There are thirteen Democratic mayoral candidates on the ballot. (There are Republican candidates, too, but, let’s get real. The Democratic primary winner is the new Mayor.) Eight of them, Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Raymond McGuire, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang, qualified to appear in a live debate on June 2, hosted by WABC-TV.
Though moderator Bill Ritter pronounced that “there is no more important issue” than education, only four candidates brought it up in their opening remarks. Morales highlighted that she “fought for education,” Stringer brought up his “universal childcare” plan, McGuire urged citizens to “vote for change” because “7 out of 10 of our children do not read at grade level,” and Yang observed that families are considering leaving NYC due to schools being closed, and reminded that “my wife and I are public school parents.”
The debate began at 7 PM, but focused on crime and the economic crises, with Garcia mentioning that childcare was key since parents couldn’t go to work without it, before an education topic arose at 7:50, just as the televised portion of the event was ending.
At that point, Adams was the only one unequivocally stating his support for lifting the cap on how many charter schools could open in NYC.
Garcia also agreed to lift the cap, but then quickly pivoted to talking about improving traditional public schools, which would include reappropriating $130 million dollars from the current City Hall budget so that there could be two teachers in every classroom, and more arts education.
Morales took the opposite position, claiming Black and Brown children were disproportionately harmed by charter schools. She wanted to “improve public schools” so that families didn’t feel they needed to “resort to charters.” Interestingly, she included unscreening public schools as a way to improve them, when parental fears about academic standards dropping in schools which no longer used grades and test scores for admissions was one of the reasons that drove many to high-performing charters in the first place. It would seem Morales believes in the shifting population theory (also known as the white children magic bullet) to make every school a majority passing school. Unfortunately, NYC lacks enough students performing at grade level to make that possible.
Stringer repeated the debunked argument that charter schools siphon money from public zoned schools. (He did not, as I noted last week for The 74, mention that both of his sons attend a public school gifted program outside of their zone, which also presumably siphons money from schools in the exact same manner and is one of the reasons why advocates want G&T programs shut down.)
The broadcast then shifted to WABC’s digital platform, where the education debate truly began in earnest.
Wiley promised to hire 2,500 new teachers, lower class size, and provide trauma care after a year of remote learning. McGuire said that NYC needs to have the best public schools, the best charter schools, the best magnet schools and the best parochial schools. He did not say how he would help make that happen.
Yang focused on getting children back physically into school buildings and catching them up on what they missed over the past year, while Morales advocated for a culturally-relevant curriculum.
Adams expanded McGuire’s stat from the opening statement about 65 percent of Black and Brown children never reaching proficiency in math and English, as Garcia repeated hers about more arts education, a mental health plan and, oh, yes, like Yang, she wants kids back in schools too.
It was risky of Yang and Garcia to confess that they believe learning loss happened due to the pandemic, as many educators deny any did. However, all the candidates were subsequently asked, point blank: How do we get back a lost year?
Donovan wants professional internships for all high school students. Wiley wants to create a best practices hub for teachers to access. Yang would place 10,000 tutors in schools. Morales wants partnerships with community organizations, and McGuire is setting a goal of all kids reading and doing math by 3rd grade, digital literacy by 6th, and summer jobs every year after 8th grade.
Stringer, the United Federation of Teachers-endorsed candidate, opened with the mandatory reminder that all teachers are heroes, before, strangely, saying that he would smash the Department of Education bureaucracy (something UFT thrives on) in order to redirect money into classrooms and equalize after school offerings between schools.
Only Adams and Garcia addressed issues yet to be brought up. Adams relayed his experience as a student with dyslexia who was convinced by schools that he couldn’t learn, and pushed hard for universal Learning Disability screening, insisting “It’s a crime what we do in schools.”
Garcia advocated for assessing each child individually and grouping students accordingly. She was referring specifically to kids with special needs, but we wonder if she would also apply that stance to accelerated students, which would go directly against the “mixed ability grouping” currently being touted by those who oppose separate gifted programs and screened schools.
When candidates were allowed to ask questions of each other, Stringer leapt on Adams for accepting money from charter school advocates and accused him of wanting to “privatize education.” Stringer did not mention that, as Comptroller, even as he boasted, “I am a huge supporter of UPK,” he sent his own children to a private preschool.
All of the candidates next jumped on the universal child care bandwagon, though only Garcia said she would limit it to families earning less than $70,000 a year, and both Yang and Donovan want to use federal money to license unofficial providers. At no point did the Mayoral candidates discuss that there is currently a huge pay disparity between those who teach preschool in public schools, and those who work in Community Based Organizations (CBO), where the majority of students attend, and where most underpaid providers are women of color.
For their closing statements, only four candidates even mentioned education, with Yang claiming that was a key issue whenever he met with voters, Adams reiterating the need for dyslexia screening, McGuire vaguely saying he plans to get “all our children educated” and accusing the others of not caring much about the issue, and Garcia asking “Who do you trust to make schools really thrive,” followed by insisting that we can trust her.
It is a good question. Whom do you trust with the education of all our children?
Let us know by voting from now until June 22!