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De Blasio critics rally, asking Carranza to hit the ‘reset button’ on education policy

Monica Disare

As Chancellor Richard Carranza meets publicly with friendly crowds during his first days in office, critics of the mayor descended on City Hall to demand the new chancellor reject his boss’s education agenda.

Hundreds of parents stood in the rain on Tuesday to lob criticisms at de Blasio’s handling of city schools, from his rocky relationship with the charter sector to his efforts to improve struggling schools. Those at the rally — which was organized by frequent de Blasio antagonist StudentsFirstNY — said they are counting on Carranza to take the school system in a different direction.

“We are here today to tell Chancellor Carranza parents are not satisfied with de Blasio’s school system and we expect more from you,” said DeWayne Murreld, a StudentsFirstNY senior organizer and a public school parent. “It’s time to hit the reset button on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failed education policies.”

One-by-one participants detailed a litany of concerns about the mayor’s education agenda. A mother bemoaned a controversial policy that would place teachers without permanent positions into classrooms. A charter school student called on Carranza to “end the war on charter schools,” a reference to his strained relationship with the sector.

A grandparent from Queens recalled fighting to keep his children, and then his grandchildren, out of the same struggling school. (StudentsFirstNY and its allies have been critical of the mayor’s plan to improve struggling schools by providing them with additional resources.)

Education department officials countered by saying that New York City schools are headed in the right direction.

“Attacking public education is far less effective than the hard work that dedicated educators undertake every day to support students and families,” said education department spokeswoman Toya Holness. “New York City schools are the strongest they’ve ever been with record-high graduation rates and a high-quality pre-k seat for every four year old in NYC, and Chancellor Carranza is building on that progress.”

It remains unclear whether Carranza will distance himself from his boss on any policy issues. During his first City Hall appearance, Carranza told reporters that there was “no daylight” between de Blasio and his own education agenda.

And although many parents at the StudentsFirstNY rally talked about a broken school system that did not serve their children, Carranza took a more optimistic stance in brief remarks at Stuyvesant High School on Monday.

“I don’t want you to read anything that says American education is failing,” Carranza said. “We’re not failing.”

However, those at the StudentsFirstNY rally expressed hope Carranza will help the school system turn a corner. For instance, they pointed out that he said last month he is “pro really good schools,” when asked about the charter sector.

“Spring is the season of hope,” said Derrell Bradford, executive director of NYCAN. “We are here because we are indeed hopeful.”

Another advocacy group that hopes Carranza will champion their cause sent a letter to the new chancellor this morning, imploring him to support participation in grades 3-8 math and English tests. The letter is signed by 32 parents and was publicly released by High Achievement New York, a group that supports testing and standards.

A separate group of parents has been focused on informing parents about the option to refuse to take the test. The so-called opt-out movement spurred about one in five New York families to boycott the tests last year.

“As you are new to New York, it is important that you understand that the state’s plan is critical for our shared accountability,” reads a part of the letter. “For too long, children were allowed to slip through the cracks of our school system and parents had limited means to measure and prevent that inequity.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from New York City education department officials.

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