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Al Sharpton says mayoral control in NYC needs parent “respect”

The rift between the Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, the two founders of the Education Equality Project, widened this weekend when Sharpton used his weekly radio address to criticize New York City’s brand of parent involvement, as we reported he would.

Sharpton told the audience at his rally in Harlem on Saturday that problems with education in the city could not be solved “without parental involvement and respect.” Dividing the mayoral control debate into two sides, he defined one faction as “our so-called liberal friends,” who he said prioritize safeguarding teachers’ jobs over the needs of children, and the other as people who say, “Let us run everything and we’ll make all the decisions,” a reference to Klein’s vision of mayoral control.

Intent on separating himself from the latter, Sharpton suggested that he would be more supportive of mayoral control outside of New York. “Mayoral control differs nationally,” he said. “In some cities, mayoral control includes community involvement and parental involvement.”

Zakiyah Ansari, a parent organizer with the Campaign for Better Schools, which is pushing for significant curbs on the mayor’s power, also spoke at the rally. Sharpton “totally gets the ideas and what’s actually happening in our communities,” she said. “We want the Department of Education to get what’s happening.”Following an Education Equality Project’s conference in April, Sharpton said he would like to see revisions in the city’s 2002 school governance law, but he offered no specifics. Since then, the bonds that knit the political odd couple together have frayed as Sharpton has become more outspoken in his criticism of the chancellor and Mayor Bloomberg’s management of the city schools.