New York, NY – The Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, a union representing educational leaders, hosted a mayoral forum on Tuesday with seven candidates from varying backgrounds but sharing similar ideas on education, vying to become the new head of the Big Apple.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Comptroller Scott Stringer, former DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Wall Street executive Ray McGuire and attorney Maya Wiley were the mayoral contenders that participated in the Zoom conference.
If elected, Wiley said, “when I look back at this [educational] system, we will see after my mayoralty, we will have had a system that works well both with the Department of Education centrally and also with our communities, our parents and our families.”
As the DOE’s School Diversity Advisory Group co-chair, Wiley hopes that school policies become more innovative to serve students better.
“We have to create more room, support and incentives that enable our leaders to be creative and to recognize that our communities do not have a one size fits all solution,” said Wiley. “We have different issues, different demographics and different things and opportunities to innovate. What we will see is a system that grows together, that innovates together and that is a big part of what I will do differently from Mayor de Blasio.”
Borough president Adams allocated $165 million to education in Brooklyn. Still, he believes investing in parents, especially single moms, will further help children succeed.
“Education is not K-through-12, it is not 0-to-3, it is prenatal through career,” said Adams. “I’m going to give mothers doulas and connect them to the educational system so that they can learn about the brain development [of their child], which 85-percent takes place through the early first 1,000 days of life.”
Stringer wants to shake up the bureaucracy and shake up the school system in the next eight years. As the city’s auditor, he has called the DOE out on its inadequacies and questionable resource allocation.
“Nobody knows the bureaucracy at the DOE better than me,” said Stringer. “I’ve done the investigations. I’ve called out the chancellor when he failed to listen to the principals and assistant principals. I demanded to learn where the missing computers were and I demand an explanation for the hundreds of millions of dollars in the bureaucracy that built up at the expense of our children.”
Garcia, a Brooklynite who grew up in the city’s public school system and a sister that is a teacher, has been a public servant for 14 years.
“After eight years [as possibly serving as mayor], I want people to think that New York City schools are the jewels they can be,” said Garcia. “The way that we can do that is to rely on the scientific programs that we know work, like the Wilson program.”
Connecting schools to the private sector, vocational schools and trade to ensure children get jobs is how Garcia would like to start off a potential tenure as mayor.
“We need to invest in our trade schools and vocational schools because those are a lot of middle-class jobs,” said Garcia. “The senior electrical engineer at DEP made way more money than I did.”
Yang’s wife went to Stuyvesant High School and his children are in public school.
“The school-to-prison pipeline is something that we fear that is all too real,” said Yang. “We need to support what we know is working [in education] and then funnel our kids to opportunities that will be resilient and appropriate for them based on what the economy needs.”
We need to prepare our kids for the 21st-century job market, according to Yang, and embrace the fact that not all kids desire or are a great fit for college.
“We have a very large diverse economy,” said Yang. “We can’t pretend, frankly, that a four-year college is going to be a right fit for all of them. There are too many kids showing up and feel like they are being put on an assembly line that is not the right fit for them. I know this in part because I have a special needs child.”
McGuire, a Harvard graduate, considers education as his saving grace the child of a single mother.
“My plan with education is cradle-to-career,” said McGuire. “Pre-K is fine, but I want to start before Pre-K. I want to start at 0-to-4. I want us to have childcare and toddler care. What happens is that by the time some of our kids get to Pre-K, they are already behind [in education]. We need to cure that from the start.”
McGuire wants every child to be able to read by the time they are in third grade.
“I will create a New York City [summer] tutor core,” said McGuire. “Maybe we haven’t committed enough resources towards this, or maybe we haven’t been creative enough to make sure [illiteracy] doesn’t happen.”
Donovan grew up in the South Bronx during a homelessness crisis and obtained three degrees from Harvard.
“We must take on the pre-existing inequities in our schools that were there long before COVID,” said Donovan. “I would want to be remembered for not having only raised the standards and the performance and educational attainment of all our students.”
By creating the most diverse set of teachers, including social workers in the school system and investing in a recovery core to bring teaching back via CUNY, Donovan hopes to close the education gap between the highest and lowest-achieving students.
“No one in this field has experience in this field to lead in crisis after crisis, not just to repair and to rebuild,” said Donovan. “You need a mayor that will partner with you as I’ve done with union leaders across my career. ”
Garcia has overwhelming union support from sanitation unions like Local 831.
“I have been speaking to lots of principals and know how hard it has been,” said Garcia. “I’ve worked very closely with labor throughout my career in city government, and it is not surprising that 90-percent of employees in unions representing sanitation endorsed me. I know how to sit down at the table and work in partnership.”