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Black, Hispanic, and Asian activist groups join Learn NY

Learn NY, the pro-mayoral control group, is partnering with the Hispanic Federation, the Black Equity Alliance, and the Asian American Federation, the group announced today in a press release. The three groups are going to help Learn NY host forums.

On the heels of news last week that the publisher of El Diario is joining the Learn NY board, this could bring a not-so-covert racial dynamic to the mayoral control debate. Another way Learn NY might make the same point: Among the group’s lobbyists are former Bronx party boss Roberto Ramirez, who heads the MirRam group. Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, chairwoman of the education committee, just told me MirRam lobbyists have already begun meeting with lawmakers to pitch Learn NY’s stance on the law. Learn NY’s lead spokesman so far has been Geoffrey Canada, the black C.E.O. of Harlem Children’s Zone.

Having the city’s non-white communities stand strongly for mayoral control would be a departure from the historical pattern. In the past, racial minorities have opposed mayors’ efforts to take control. Remember decentralization here in the 1960s, led in part by the black and Puerto Rican communities? The pattern applies to other cities, too, according to this essay (PDF) by Columbia Teachers College professor Jeff Henig:

The most important complaints have come from racial minorities, parents, and teachers. Despite the fact that it is presented in race-neutral language, mayoral control has sparked racially defined responses in a number of cities.

Here’s the full Learn NY press release:

Hispanic Federation, Black Equity Alliance, Asian American Federation Partner with Learn NY
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Diverse groups come together for grassroots effort to educate New Yorkers on mayoral control of schools

New York, NY – Learn NY is pleased to announce new partnerships with several organizations that will host forums and talk with parents about the current school governance system. These organizations are the Hispanic Federation, Black Equity Alliance, and the Asian-American Federation of New York.

“These three organizations represent many of the faces of New York City,” said Learn NY Board Chair Geoffrey Canada. “They are joining us to get involved in education issues and will help Learn NY connect and work with New York City parents.”

“We are partnering with Learn NY to help parents increase their understanding of mayoral control,” said Lillian Rodríguez López, President of The Hispanic Federation, an umbrella organization of Latino non-profits, serving millions of underprivileged Latinos in the areas of education, health, elderly services, child care, HIV/AIDS, housing, immigrant services, arts and culture, and economic development. “Parents must play a vital role in their kids’ schools and to do that, they need to have all the facts.”

“Our forums will ensure that the number one stakeholder in the education of New York City’s 1.1 million school children—parents—are fully informed, engaged and empowered to make the best decision possible for their children,” said Joyce S. Johnson, President and CEO, Black Equity Alliance. “The bottom line is that we’ve got to create a system that delivers for our children and step one in that process is ensuring that parents, educators and community members are educated about the key issues involved in the effective management of our city’s schools,” Johnson added. “Black Equity Alliance supports all efforts to increase opportunities for open, comprehensive dialogue among all concerned with the welfare of New York City’s public school children. We appreciate the work of Learn NY and this outreach partnership with our fellow federations. “

Black Equity Alliance is a nonprofit organization promoting the economic and social sustainability of New York City’s 2 million blacks and working in collaboration with several hundred nonprofit, faith-based, business and human service organizations in the New York City area.

“We want parents to be engaged in their children’s schools, so it’s important that their views are heard,” said Cao K. O, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit leadership organization which represents 42 member agencies in the New York metropolitan area working to advance the civic voice and quality of life of Asian Americans in the New York metropolitan area.

Learn NY has made open dialogue with parents a priority. Over the past several months, Learn NY has been working with leaders of religious and school communities to talk to parents about the school system.

In November, we participated in a neighborhood forum on mayoral control in Brooklyn, attended by approximately 1,000 parents and community leaders. In December, another community forum was held, with about 600 Queens parents and residents attending.

We have also held small educational meetings in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. To date we have met with hundreds of parents and clergy leaders through these smaller meetings. Learn NY has also attended, and continues to participate in, public forums to engage directly with parents on all sides of the mayoral control issue.

Learn NY has an interactive website, www.learn-ny.org/, that gives parents the tools they need to get the facts on mayoral control, learn about what to expect grade by grade, find a calendar on public hearing on education issues, check out the latest news about mayoral control, and read about the results in our schools. On our website, parents can also share stories about their schools and ask questions about mayoral control. Most of the tools are in both English and Spanish.

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