New York parents may soon have a new advocacy group to help them press for change in the city schools, led by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio announced the group, which will be known as the “Parent Advocate Coordinating Team,” or PACT, at a town hall forum on education his office held last night in downtown Brooklyn. The public advocate’s staff began collecting contact information for parents last night, and de Blasio said that he hoped to mobilize parents across the city.
At the meeting, De Blasio specifically mentioned organizing against the proposed MTA student Metrocard cuts, and he has called for a moratorium on giving charter schools space in city school buildings. De Blasio’s office hasn’t yet determined what topics the parent group will tackle first, de Blasio spokeswoman Maibe Gonzalez said. (Gonzalez is a former spokeswoman for the Department of Education.)
De Blasio has spoken frequently of his desire to increase grassroots organizing around the city, and campaigned on a promise to help bring a stronger parent voice to the public school system. His office developed concrete plans for a parent advocacy group in the past few weeks, Gonzalez said.
The group will join a growing field of parent activist organizations around the city. Several groups had their genesis in last year’s fight over the renewal of mayoral control, during which increasing parental involvement was a major sticking point. The new governance legislation included provisions to boost parental involvement in schools, though a parent training center planned under the legislation has yet to be funded.
De Blasio has said that the Department of Education’s current policies go against the spirit of the legislature’s plans to give parents a more meaningful voice. At the meeting last night, the DOE’s Chief Family Engagement Officer, Martine Guerrier, said she welcomed the debate about how parents can be involved in their schools.
“There are differing views about what strong parent engagement looks like,” Guerrier said.