Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Crisis in Education

I've been asked what is my platform on education in our city. Indeed we have a crisis in education when it comes to public schools mainly populated by Black and Spanish speaking students. But before I go into that I want to put on record that I didn't just pop up out of nowhere talking about education and what can be done to improve it just because I am running for city council. I have been very involved not just in our city's public school education system, but primary school education period, before now.

Many years ago, when I was a much younger man (chuckle),when I was in the Army I got into an on the job training program in teaching. It was designed to let people have actual teaching experience and apply that experience toward a teaching degree. Kind of the cart before the horse if you will. But in the Army we do what we got to do, especially overseas. I was assigned as an assistant teacher and tutored 5th grade military dependents in Germany.

Although I didn't pursue teaching and stayed in the military a while longer I did take a job as a security officer at a high school in between, which was actually the first high school in the nation to have school security. I came on board a few years after the security program started. It was very different than how security operates now but it was partly coordinated by the local police department. So school security being under the police department now is not a new concept. It more than likely came from us.

This is probably the moment in my life that made me realize the importance of public school education. However, not in a way to replace a child's primary teachers, which should be his/her parents. But in tandem. As they say in Latin, "In loco parentis." Meaning, to take the place of a parent when such parent is not around. Remember the child is with his/her parent[s] first thing in the morning and last thing in the day, or that's how it should work. However, when the parent comes to school the role of parent reverts back to the custodial parent, whatever time of day that is. Well, that's how it has always been with me.

I won't go into every aspect of my education experience here because I did not pursue teaching as a career. However, because I did involve myself with children throughout my life and have a child of my own, you could say that because of certain circumstances, which I will go into shortly, I became partners with the public school education system. How could it be any other way? We do trust them with our children, don't we? So we better be partners. And it's better to get along with your partners than to not get along. Then again, we all know that having partnership doesn't necessarily mean that we always get along either. If everyone can see it like this a little maybe our approach to education would be more productive. Everyone certainly includes the DOE.


When I accepted an appointment to serve on Community Board 10's Education & Libraries Committee I jumped at the opportunity. I did so because I felt that having an official position pertaining to education would be beneficial to all parties in this public school arena: BOE/DOE, parents and the neighboring residents who may not have children going to public school.

Initially I fought against mayoral control because it was complicated and was more decentralized than the mayor was claiming. I also found the new DOE to be racist and acting like a dictatorship. My kind of fight.

I then became very involved in the charter school issue. I didn't like how charter schools were taking over public school buildings, in whole or in part, but the children who previously occupied such public school building spaces were pushed out and made to go elsewhere. Nowhere in our public school/charter school history prior to this current administration was the charter/public school question ever a big issue.

For those who have not followed the particulars of this subject and know about certain court decisions regarding same, this issue deserves its own editorial. But for the record, a charter school in New York State is deemed to be a public school. However, when it comes to land use regulations, such decisions being the prerogative of the City, a charter school is not a public school. This is in the Charter School Act for those who would like to look it up. I personally drafted proposed legislation for city council to consider, which would have adequately addressed this matter.

Although city council has yet to act on my proposal I will take time to commend Assemblyman Keith Wright for his willingness to listen to many of my suggestions on this issue and pushed to incorporate some of these ideas as well as other people's ideas into the recent revised Mayoral Control Law, which now makes it more transparent and involve more entities before the DOE can close down a public school. The legislation stops short of telling the city what it should do with its property should the school building no longer be used for a public school purpose.

In a nutshell the problem we have in education, which is equally a problem in our city and state government, is that our present administrations do not see education as a vital state interest. They certainly don't act like it, despite the language in our state constitution pertaining to the need of a free public educational system.

Further proof of its necessity and vital importance is the fact that it is free and compulsory. If that doesn't tell you something then maybe you're the problem.

But because the education in our city and state is not taken seriously you're going to have violence in schools, poor reading and math skills, more children dropping out of school and more unproductive youth. Forget what Bloomberg is trying to make you believe. If you only have 10 seniors total and only 5 graduate, you may have 50% of the senior class graduating however, at the end of the day you only have 5 seniors graduating. However, you may have had 5 years ago an aggregate senior class of 50 with 10 seniors graduating. You may have only had 20% of the senior class graduating but at the end of the day you had more seniors graduating from high school than you have now. Look at it from this angle. With the second example at least we had more seniors in the 12th grade. But to not have them even get that far five years later, well that sounds like regression to me.

The schools that always suffer the most when there is a lack of education concern or budget cuts are schools in predominently Black and Spanish speaking neighborhoods. If there is a cut in a certain area the pie is not divided based on who needs what, which is the appropriate way to distribute because everyone should have an equal opportunity. And I doubt it gets divided evenly. Rather the pie gets distributed to those who may not need it or unevenly. Schools having a white majority will continue to get close to their fair share or allocations that they don't need while the other schools get... well we should know how it works, and I still don't accept it nor understand it.

So one of the first things I am going to push for if I get elected is a law that will give the city council an opportunity to be benevolent. There is nothing to say that as a local legislative body we can't come up with our own education gift of some kind for our youth. Some of these monies budgeted for correctional facilities and other things that make you wonder will get cut back. But to always think about cutting funds for education first is putting the cart before the horse. Maybe if our government didn't cut so much in education we wouldn't need to build more jails and we would have the workforce necessary to sustain a city.

The second thing I would like to see happen right away when I take office (but even if I don't this idea needs to be pursued) is the creation of a joint committee consisting of state and city legislators on education. We would meet 4 times a year and come up with concrete plans on how to make our schools better.

Lastly, but by no means the end all, I would like to push for citywide legislation that involve parents and their children in their children's education curriculum. I don't know exactly what and how, although I do have a concept for school grading. Some grading in school should involve projects that are partnered with children and their parents. If we make this our goal we can come up with creative legislation that involve parents and their children in our city's education system. We have lost our sense of civic community. It's not even taught in schools anymore. How then do you expect our young to become productive citizens?

What I offer is a simple platform. But what I know works is that when you engage youth you get positive results. However, when we engage them we must be ready to hear them and see what they want out of this engagement. And we shouldn't be afraid to tell them pull up your pants or "shhhhhh," when they are too loud.

I was at a rally outside the 32nd Precinct October 26, 2009 and the rally was very important. There was press there. Children were coming through being loud and rowdy and I turned around and signaled for them to be quiet saying, "Shhhhh." They listened too. Had to do it several times even. Yeah it works.

Make sure you Vote

November 3, 2009

Polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bill Thompson - Mayor
John Lui - Comptroller
Bill de Blasio - Public Advocate
and yours truly,

Julius Tajiddin,
New York City Council,
District 7

Line 15, Column K

(Also known as the candidates who were against
the extension of term limits.)

For more information contact

For more on Julius Tajiddin
read the other posts.

And yes, she finally came around.
Another Bill Thompson supporter.

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