Myrie Releases Education Plan, Hamilton Responds

Sen. Jesse Hamilton

State Senatorial candidate Zellnor Myrie yesterday announced his education platform and his opponent in the tight 20th Senate District primary election battle, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton responded with his own education views.

But Myrie stopped short on answering any questions regarding charter schools, and school choice for parents and students, particularly in low socio-economic neighborhoods where regular public schools are consistently under performing.

Democratic State Senate Candidate Zellnor Myrie

Myrie did double down in support of the landmark 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision which found that public schools are due billions of dollars in money they have yet to receive.

“I will fight to ensure our public schools are fully funded. In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals held that New York was violating our students’ constitutional right to a ‘sound and basic education’ by leaving schools without necessary funding. As a result, the Court ordered that New York public schools receive a $5.5 billion increase in funding,” said Myrie.

“While the State has made incremental expansions, schools are still owed over $4 billion. This is money children need for arts programs, new textbooks, and access to updated technology to train them to be competitive in the modern economy. Simply put, education funding matters. Without adequate resources, schools cannot educate their students. In the State Senate, I will fight for fair school aid distribution that is based on student and school district need,” he added.

Myrie also expressed support for the Safe and Supportive Schools Bill, which would reduce the over-reliance on suspensions and promote alternative approaches to handling student behavior. This bill will eliminate suspensions for students in grades K-3, limit the length of long-term suspensions, and limit law enforcement interactions with students.

“I will make sure our schools strive to educate our children not punish them. In the 2015-2016 school year, there were over 91,000 suspensions in New York.  All schools will be required to have discipline policies based on the best practices developed by educational experts,” he said.

Myrie also said he will fight to ensure public-school curriculum is culturally responsive, and to use landmarks of students’ own cultures to build knowledge and skills. To do this, educational leaders must be able to relate aspects of students’ daily lives to the curriculum, he said.

“If educational leaders value students’ cultural backgrounds, then they will see students’ backgrounds as capital to build on not as barriers to learning. I will support policies that ensure school and district staff represent the diversity of the student population and promote district-wide skills with culturally responsive education and anti-discriminatory practices. Through a culturally responsive curriculum, we can advance student learning by honoring and supporting students’ cultural experiences,” said Myrie.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton

Hamilton responded that he has delivered record levels of funding for public schools, and that while Myrie is now calling for culturally sensitive curriculum one week before the election, his African-American History in New York Schools bill passed the senate unanimously.

I also authored legislation to restore the Amistad Commission, revive its work, and give the Commission a home in the Department of Education where it can do the most good for our students,” said Hamilton/.

Hamilton, who served as a local school board president for eight years in Crown Heights, also noted how as senator he founded  ‘the Campus,’ the first technology and wellness hub at a public housing site in the United States, in Brownsville in the fall of 2016.

“Since then, The Campus has expanded to Crown Heights and East Flatbush, with early planning underway to expand to even more schools. Linking more than 50 community-based organizations, City and State agencies, and our schools has already met success with increases in math and reading scores, and more importantly, a positive response from the students, parents, and educators involved in Campus programs,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton also said he supports charter schools as an alternative choice in public education for parents and students.

“I believe in putting in the work, I believe in working in partnership with all our schools, I believe in valuing the choices of parents, and I believe in delivering the resources to our schools so every student can succeed,” he said.

The primary is Sept. 13. The district includes Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, and Sunset Park.