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A new player set to enter city education politics tonight

A New York non-profit whose political action committee supports critics of mayoral control is making its debut into city education politics tonight. But its strategy is to hold off supporting city candidates this election year and instead spend the fall collecting community input.
The effort kicks off tonight with two “neighborhood dialogue” meetings in Brooklyn and Queens, said Glynda Carr, executive director of Education Voters of New York, a three-year old branch of the national Education Voters of America.

The group has previously supported some of mayoral control’s staunchest opponents in Albany. But Carr said that she aims to launch a public conversation about schools freed of political agendas, including her own. “These neighborhood dialogues aren’t going to be framed,” she said.

Carr said she planned to use the fruits of the fall meetings to map out an agenda for future local campaign work.  If she succeeds, her group could become a key player amid a crop of new lobbying groups directing their dollars with education issues in mind.

In 2008, NY EdPAC, Education Voters of New York’s political action committee, considered candidates’ positions on increased accountability under mayoral control in their criteria for endorsements. According to campaign contribution records, among the list of candidates the group supported in 2008 are Senators Eric Adams, Kevin Parker, Velmanette Montgomery and Ruben Diaz, Sr., four of the eight who voted against mayoral control today. The group gave a total of just over $69,000 to 43 state legislature candidates around New York state in 2008. The group piloted its legislative strategy in New York in 2006 and 2007, supporting the winning campaigns of three candidates in Westchester, Syracuse and Nassau County, Long Island.

Carr has also been a critic of mayoral control and has testified to the State Assembly urging a more autonomous Panel for Educational Policy, the school board under the mayor’s tenure. She is the former chief of staff to State Senator Kevin Parker, a sponsor of the Better Schools Act, which would have removed the mayor’s control over the Panel for Educational Policy and was defeated in July.

NY EdPAC isn’t the only political action committee currently wading into the city educational fray. Last month members of the parent-led NYC Coalition for Educational Justice launched their own committee to support City Council candidates. The Democrats for Education Reform lobbying group, launched in 2007, has also been pouring money into local New York races with an eye to advancing its pet causes of charter schools and aggressive accountability for failing schools.

Imagine: NY Schools will continue to hold public forums throughout August and use ideas from the meetings to generate questions for mayoral candidates’ debates and City Council candidates’ forums this fall. The ultimate goal is to create a policy “blueprint for 21st century schools” that the group will present to the new mayor and City Council, she said.

The schedule and locations for Imagine: NY Schools’ “neighborhood dialogue” meetings can be found here.