January 26, 2009
Learn NY is ramping up its dogged campaign to bring public school parents on board its effort to preserve mayoral control of the city schools. Its latest technique: asking parent-bloggers to post a canned introductory letter directly to their web sites.
The group, which includes a set of four high-profile board members, some anonymous rich donors, and one seasoned political hand, was formed last year as the premier campaign to lobby for mayoral control when it comes up for renewal this spring. (The law could be scrapped, bringing back the old school board, revised, or kept intact.) Part of Learn NY’s argument for keeping mayoral control is that, though some very vocal parents loudly criticize the system, a silent majority of non-loud parents support it — or would, if they properly understood what mayoral control is.
The blogosphere campaign is part of its effort to find those parents and educate them. An earlier effort involved shooting off an arsenal of e-mails to parent e-mail lists.
The campaign is hitting some snags. After e-mails went out to parent list-serves, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, denounced the group on the public school parents list serve she runs. Another blogger, David Quintana of Queens, who received an inquiry from Learn NY today, declined the offer and passed it on to press contacts. Quintana’s blog includes a clock excitedly counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds left in the Bloomberg administration.
Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Learn NY, said the organization is deliberately reaching out to diverse groups because it wants to start a dialogue. “It’s similar to what we’ve been doing all along, going to forums where there are lots of people against us, people who have lots of disagreements with mayoral control and the mayor,” she said.
She said Learn NY also wants to transform the conversation about mayoral control from a shouting match about Mayor Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Learn NY’s own behind-the-scenes happenings into a substantive debate on the merits of mayoral control as a way to govern the public schools. “If this is a referendum on Joel Klein, that doesn’t serve the interests of the school system,” she said. “We think that it’s about more than that.”
The group is waging campaigns off the Internet, too. Community organizers employed by Learn NY have held meetings in the outer boroughs with groups of 20 or 30 parents, Wood says, and the group right now is marshaling a set of nonprofit allies who could come with Learn NY spokesmen to testify at Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan’s hearing on mayoral control in Queens Wednesday (the first of a set of hearings in every borough).
The letter Learn NY asked Quintana to post is below:
Hello New York City Parents,
My name is Robin Warren and I work with an education advocacy coalition called Learn NY based here in New York City.
Some background on our organization: Learn NY is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that each of New York City’s students receives a high-quality education. We believe in an education governance system that provides our schools with accountability and efficiency, so that our children have a chance at a brighter future.
I am reaching out to online New York City parent communities across all five boroughs to introduce our organization and to hopefully begin a real dialogue with you all.
In this community and other New York neighborhoods, concerned parents are discussing how we can improve the education system in New York City; one of the issues that we are trying to raise more awareness about is the renewal of the important Mayoral Control Law, as well as how we can work to improve it.
With the law coming up for renewal, now is the time for discussion and improvements, particularly when it comes to increasing transparency and ensuring more parental engagement in the New York City school system.
That is why parents from across the city are getting involved with Learn NY. By coming together to share our stories <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14378/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1> , our experiences, and our ideas for the future, we will ensure that parent voices are well-represented as state legislators debate renewing mayoral control this spring.
To that end, the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Education wants to hear from you about the Governance of the New York City School System, and they are holding hearings all over the city to give you that opportunity. The first of the hearings is taking place this Thursday at 10 A.M in Kew Gardens. Please click here for more details <http://www.learn-ny.org/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=cmpContent&htmlKey=parentsSchedule&s=learnNY> .
Already, concerned parents in your community have signed up to attend the hearing. Click here to join them <http://www.learn-ny.org/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=userNewsletterSpecial&s=learnNY> and to make sure that your voice is heard.
Additionally on the site, you will find resources specifically for parents <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14376/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1> like links to school progress reports, grade-by-grade guides and a parent’s bill of rights, as well as other ways for you to get involved <http://www.learn-ny.org/e/l/14377/13706d60-8a43-4471-8102-4cbf27281ed1> .
In the coming weeks, I hope to come back here to give you some more background on Learn NY and on this issue for those who might be less familiar with the law.
I look forward to working with you all. Please email me if you have any questions.
Better Schools, Brighter Futures