56th Assembly District Race: Wright, Cherry Weigh In On Education Issues

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of an on-going series, KCP is asking candidates running for state office in the upcoming Sept. 13 primary about issues that matter and that are being debated in Albany.

Democrats Tremaine Wright and Karen Cherry are both fighting to win the seat left vacant by retiring Assemblywoman Annette Robinson in the 56th District covering Bedford-Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights.

Wright, who has the endorsement of both Robinson and the powerful Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA) political club, for which she serves as its vice president, is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Chicago Law School. She is also a former business owner of the coffee shop, Common Grounds, on Tompkins Avenue, and the current chair of Community Board 3.

Cherry has a long and distinguished career as a public servant working for former Congressman Ed Towns and currently for Assemblyman Erik Dilan. A product of the public housing, Cherry is popular in the northern end of the district and connects well with the working-class and low-income residents in the district.

KCP put the following question to both candidates:

Bedford-Stuyvesant has some of the most at-risk schools such as Boys & Girls High School and some of the better public schools such as Bedford Academy in the city. It also has both excellent charter schools and regular public schools, as well as several underperforming public schools. As state lawmakers, you will constantly be thrown into the tug of war between funding for the state versus regular public schools, including such issues as co-locations and sighting of additional charter schools.

Where do you stand on this issue of charter school funding, co-locations and parental choice for where parents send their kids to school and why?

Karen Cherry
Karen Cherry

Karen Cherry: As a state lawmaker, my stance on charter school funding, co-locations and parental choice are as follows:

Parents should have the choice of where they would like to send their children. I have a personal relationship/experience with this issue. My son suffered with dyslexia and I was able to send him to a school that was specific to his needs. He excelled at this school and was able to transition back into the public school system. The Public School System was able to facilitate and shadow him through this transition with special programs.

I am totally against the current structure of funding charter schools and co-locations and this is based on administration assessments. The assessments show that one school in the same location could have high technology to provide their students; however, the second school in the same building does not have this technology. How do we explain that to the friends living on the same block going to the same school building each day but one has this educational advantage and the other does not?

The state needs to step in and close this divide and provide adequate funding for shared school locations. Low performing schools should not be shut down. State funds should be administered to assist in increasing performance in failing schools.

Tremaine Wright
Tremaine Wright

Tremaine Wright: I support quality education for all students I am a firm supporter of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. I commit to fighting for the full and complete funding of all of our public schools; charter and traditional district schools. To that end, I believe we must create a school funding system that addresses and acknowledges all streams of money provided to schools and adjust accordingly. Schools must be provided with equitable funding; and resources must be distributed fairly and evenly for all children.

Our experience with co-locations, especially in one of our school districts, has generally been contentious. And as a result, those co-locations have failed to provide healthy learning environments. Of course there are outliers, where the co-located institutions have successfully co-existed, but it unfortunately has not been the norm. Therefore, if the city decides to continue to utilize our schools in this manner, they must commit to setting and enforcing standards for how shared resources are administered for each building.

Our children deserve access to an outstanding education and we should create a fully funded school system which provides options for families and is capable of meeting the needs of our diverse student body.

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