March 11, 2019, By Meghan Sackman
A town hall meeting is planned to take place in Jackson Heights on Saturday that will provide the public with the ability to weigh in on the quality and needs of public schools with newly-elected officials such as Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Jackson Heights People for Public Schools, a local education advocacy group, is hosting the event that aims to get a conversation going about issues such as the racial makeup of district schools, the amount of funding public schools receive and the curriculum taught at nearby schools.
The meeting, which will take place on March 16 at Fiesta Hall, located at 37-62 89th St., from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., will start off with a panel discussion followed by questions from the public. Panelists include Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz.
The meeting will provide residents with the ability to ask questions and voice their concerns. Organizers hope that the elected officials will learn more about the current state of district schools, which will help them with their policymaking.
Nuala O’Doherty, the vice present of Community Education Council 30 and a JHPPS member, said the discussion will focus on topics of particular interest to the group.
These topics deal with issues such as the racial mix of students at local schools; the funding that neighborhood schools receive; and the curriculum, with the diverse backgrounds of the students in mind.
O’Doherty, who has three children currently enrolled at Jackson Heights public schools, said that many middle-income parents who move into the area are sending their kids to private schools, under the misconception that they are better, while the poorer children go to their zoned public schools, creating segregated learning communities.
“These families move to the neighborhood for diversity and then take their children out of the neighborhood to other schools, when the reality is that our schools are just as good,” O’Doherty said.
She said that there were several areas where the public schools need to improve. For instance, she said that the curriculum is often not reflective of the cultural and economic makeup of the students–often putting these kids at a disadvantage.
O’Doherty said that this is reflected in the questions asked in standardized tests. She said a recent question asked students to identify their feelings–such as excitement–associated with going through a car wash, an experience many low-income children have never had.
“Most of these kids’ families don’t have cars and have therefore never been through a carwash,” O’Doherty said. “Questions like these on tests disclude many students in the area.”
Other confirmed panel speakers include State Sen. John Liu; State Sen. Robert Jackson; Education Historians Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris; and Leonie Haimson, the executive director of public education advocacy group Class Size Matters.
Representatives from other organizations such as Alliance for Quality Education; NYS Association for Bilingual Education; NYC Opt Out; and Network for Public Education will be in attendance as well.
All Jackson Heights parents and residents are encouraged to attend the meeting.
Headsets, which will provide a translation of the meeting into different languages, will be available at the event.
RSVP to the town hall meeting here.