14 Mayoral candidates take part in a virtual public discussion
14 mayoral candidates on Friday took part in a virtual public discussion that was organized by the People First Democratic Club and moderated by Dr Shawn Best.
The candidates who took part in the panel discussion that focused on Parenting and Education included Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former commissioner of the city’s department of Sanitation Kathryn Garcia, comedian Stacey Prussman, retired NYPD, Bill Pepitone and Aaron Foldenauer.
Others were former Marine Corps officer Zach Iscol, Vitaly Filipchenko, Art Chang, Dianne Morales, former Bill de Blasio counsel Maya Wiley, rapper Paperboy Prince, Eddie Cullen, New York City council member for District 38 Carlos Menchaca and retired military officer Loree Sutton.
In his debate, Adams said he was a product of the public education system and that he was optimistic the city could do better with its public education.
“If you don’t educate, you will incarcerate. 65 percent of the black and brown students are not proficient in our education system. 80 percent of the black and brown people who are in Rikers Island don’t have a High School diploma,” he said.
He noted that, “Our failure in having a good education system as a city is at the heart of the things we see in black and brown communities. We have a school system that has not changed since 1600. It’s time to evolve.”
Prussman said New York City’s education system needed to be totally reformed by ensuring that the communities took charge.
“People in the communities need to take charge of their education. They have to choose what they want to learn and that’s the most empowering thing you can do to a student. And schools are not places of martial law.
The police should not be there. Each child needs their own individual time so that they can learn. I don’t think students should be in jail for truancy,” she said.
And Prussman said a lot of children are going to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Foldenauer said less than 40 percent of the students in High School were ready for college adding that there was need for more innovation in the public schools.
“We are not short of money, we just need to use it more efficiently,” he said.
Foldenauer said there was need to prolong the school year saying studies had shown that the current school year was not sufficient enough for minority students to keep up.
Iscol said every child in the city deserves a good education and was of the view that police officers should be removed from schools.
“The other thing is that we shouldn’t have children in school not having access to the internet. We need to create an online diagnostic tool,” Iscol said.
Chang said the problems that the city’s education system was faced with could not be solved using the same system that created them in the first place.
“Education that meets every student wherever they are is possible to achieve in the city. The system should adapt to students needs and not the other way round. Why should everyone be forced to graduate at 18 years old? It doesn’t make sense,” Chang said.
Rapper Paperboy emphasized on the need to believe in the kids saying this was why his campaign manager was a 13-year-old.
“We need to better educate our kids now instead of waiting. Those are the policies we hope to bring when elected as mayor. Our public school system is not setting up our students to win. We need culturally sensitive testing in schools,” he said.
“We should have rap classes in schools to make students more interested in going to school. Students need to be paid to go to school. They deserve to be paid and we should invest in them. Ending poverty means giving money straight up to people. Universal basic income is needed ASAP to educate the community. It is crucial to have new futuristic ideas,” Paperboy said.
Paperboy also proposed turning New York City Housing Authority into mansions so that students could have a better environment to live in.
He also proposed the abolishment of the NYPD and replacing them with a love team.
Menchaca said education is a game changer and that whoever, gets the position of mayor should invest in the education system.
Wiley said she was running for mayor because all the students in the city’s education system deserve dignity and that through her experience, she knew what to do.
“We never look at restructuring the education system to make it better. Once elected mayor, I will create student support teams. I had one of my kids threatened with the knife and then the school created a support system which worked out just fine,” Wiley said.
And Wiley said the COVID-19 pandemic just blew curtains back on what was already broken before.
Garcia said there hasn’t been much focus on empowering schools with the right tools that they needed to educate the students.
“We should expand our high school system. Resources have to be poured into classrooms and not administration. We have to have a diverse curriculum, not every kid will be interested in mathematics.
"We need to have an infusion of creativity with technical skills that makes it easy for students to get a job. It is fundamental to have creativity because it cannot be replaced by computers,” Garcia said.
Morales observed that New York City doesn’t lack money but bravery and that there was need to embark on radical measures that would focus on the root causes of the challenges that the city’s education system was faced with.
“All the systems that have led to these challenges need to be fundamentally dismantled. We need to desegregate our schools. We need to teach our kids financial literacy that should give them opportunities to explore the world around them. A culture relevant curriculum should also be created,” Morales said.
Pepitone observed that the parental involvement of parents into their kids’ education was low across the city because parents have to work too many jobs to meet the high cost of living.
“We have to make sure that parents get involved in their children’s education. Industry leaders should also be involved to give students a goal to achieve and then from there, teachers can pick it up,” Pepitone said.
And Pepitone said the closed economy that has been necessitated by COVID-19 was causing a lot of stress to parents who in turn were transferring their stress to the children.
“Let us put people back to work. The city has failed our children and teachers,” he said before adding that, “The last thing we need to do is pull out police officers from our schools. Kids needs to excel from a safe environment.”
Cullen said institutional inequality was real and that there was need for the city to embark on practical solutions to solve the problems the education system was faced with.
Sutton said once elected as mayor, she would abolish the position of school superintendent and channel the resources from these offices to the schools.
And Sutton observed that people were already fleeing New York City to other states even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to restore credibility to public safety. The mayor must have respect for the community as much as for the cops,” she said.
Filipchenko said the education system in New York City needed to be rebuilt especially for students who could not speak English.
In his closing remarks, People First Democratic Club president Algernon Quattlebaum said New York City’s problems could not be solved from one forum and pledged to hold more public discussions that would make it easier for people to decide on which candidates to vote for.