By Sam Pirozzolo | March 15, 2015
Why are we at NYC Parents Union still suing to force education reform across New York, when Gov. Cuomo is pushing hard toward the same goal?
Several people have asked me that, especially since Judge Philip Minardo last week rejected the efforts of the teachers union, the city and state to have our case tossed out.
Well, there’s a bunch of reasons.
First off, Cuomo isn’t now pursuing the specific changes we’re seeking in the Davids v. New York suit — namely, to overturn current laws and practices on teacher job-security. These outdated protections, we will show, work to deny countless children their right to a quality public-school education.
Second, there’s no guarantee the governor will succeed. He faces the extremely difficult challenge of dealing with the Legislature, Mayor de Blasio and his Department of Education and, of course, the union bosses.
Our inspiration is the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation. Sixty years later, New York City schools are blighted by a different kind of segregation — not so much racial, as economic.
Decade after decade, the neighborhoods in the poorest ZIP codes wind up with the worst-performing schools — because the most underperforming teachers are shunted off to these schools, rather than forced to improve or be fired.
This issue — the economic segregation of our public schools — is the most significant civil-rights issue of our generation.
As parents of children in the public schools, we have no option except to ask the courts to say, “Enough!”
We don’t mean to attack or embarrass teachers by exposing the failures of the school system. Indeed, most teachers are talented, hard-working professionals who care about our children. But not enough teachers.
With this lawsuit, we parents will prove that the current framework of bad laws victimizes countless children, especially lower-income and minority children.
These kids are the victims of a system designed by the teachers union to protect teachers who lack the competence to do their jobs — or at last perform well below what’s needed to provide a quality education.
Evidence produced at trial will prove that something is going horribly wrong at our public schools. But our goal isn’t just to point out the problem, but to solve it.
Again, we can’t leave it to Cuomo alone. Governors, mayors and schools chancellors have demanded reform for decades but failed to achieve results. Politics has stopped them all.
The pervasive, often malevolent, influence of unions like the American Federation of Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers is too strong. These unions spend tens of millions of dollars to protect the economic interests of their weakest members — at our children’s expense.
Decades of union power dedicated to serving the unions’ interest — often at the expense of teachers who want to do better — have produced a school system whose design and even purpose is not to serve the children, but to serve the interests of adults who feast from the trough of taxpayer dollars.
Albert Shanker, the founder of the UFT, is famous for saying, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” His heirs today, like UFT boss Michael Mulgrew, operate on the same principle.
With an attitude like this, and the millions of dollars that the unions can use for political contributions, is it any wonder why parents have no choice but to look to the courts for relief?
The system that’s supposed to provide a quality education for all New York kids has failed — it’s corrupt, outdated, ineffective and offensive. And it won’t allow us even a voice. We parents have been shut out.
Again, we look to Brown v. Board of Ed. That case centered on a student and a parent who represented countless others in the same situation — children in schools that weren’t providing the basic education needed to become a functioning member of society.
Davids v. New York is just such a case. We are a few parents standing up to the corrupt politicians, the bullying unions and the incompetent administrators who are destroying the lives of so many children. It is more than Davids v. New York: It is David v. Goliath.
Most children who attend our city’s public schools aren’t getting the education guaranteed by the state Constitution. They’re not getting the education their parents are paying for, though city spending per student is among the highest in the world.
We can no longer leave our children’s education up to union bosses and politicians. Parents — real, grassroots parents, not union pawns — must have an equal place at the table.
And that, my friends, is where the teachers’ unions are fighting most vigorously: They’ve prevented independent parents from having any input into the education of their children. It’s time for parents, students and citizens to stand up and demand the seat we deserve.
This is why we are suing, and this is why we need your support.
Sam Pirozzolo, a plaintiff in Davids v NY, is a Staten Island parent, former president of Community Education Council 31-Staten Island and vice president of the New York City Parents Union.
Read Sam’s op-ed on the NY Post website at https://nypost.com/2015/03/15/why-parents-are-suing-to-end-school-failure/