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Chancellor Carmen Faria

New York City Department of Education

Tweed Courthouse
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
October 28, 2016
Dear Chancellor Faria,
The parents and educational communities of Community School District 3 are in a dual
It is common knowledge that our schools are made deeply unequal by years of disparities
in resources and supports, and yet there is no vision and no policy to address those
inequalities. The effect is that access to education and educational outcomes are skewed
by race, income, national origin, housing status, and other factors. This is happening not
just because schools serving low-income families have less, but because privileged
parents are allowed to group themselves into specific schools for the purpose of having
more. This deliberate production of inequality is largely unacknowledged by the
Department of Education (DOE) and Community Education Council (CEC) 3, although it
is a matter of constant public discussion among parents and school communities.
Compounding this unacceptable state of District 3 schools, our CEC has yet to
acknowledge its obligation to represent District 3 parents and promote achievement of
educational standards and objectives relating to the instruction of students, as New York
State law demands.
Desegregation and the CEC rezoning
We appreciate the fact that the CEC has recently acknowledged that the Districts schools
are segregated and that the problems of zoning, overcrowding, and segregation are
joined. This was not the case a year ago, and it does mark significant progress. However,
we disagree with the CEC that its rezoning plan is a desegregation" plan; it does not
represent the interests of low-income families of color throughout the district. While the
CEC has begun to portray itself as a champion of diversity, we must insist that words be
backed with actions that address how structural racism creates segregated and unequal
learning environments and opportunities for the majority of the districts children.
At the same time, CEC3 continues to sideline discussions about the vast disparities that
exist among schools, and how privilege allows some families to choose and gain access
to certain schools, thereby disproportionately concentrating resources in select schools
and exacerbating overcrowding. Moreover, for the past three years, the CEC has focused
its attention on overcrowding at a few high-performing and heavily parent funded schools
at the southern end of the district. The rezoning focuses mostly on schools where highincome families have accessed the vast majority of seats. The schools left aside are
virtually all low-income Title I schools, serving mostly families of color.

PS 241 and the exclusion of low-income schools from CEC representation

The CEC has also consistently sidelined discussion about the need to support the many
under resourced schools outside the small area targeted for rezoning. The surprise
closure of PS241 is just one example of how the CECs myopic focus has harmed
families and schools in the rest of the district.
Like the CECs new turn to desegregation, its plan for PS 241, which would effectively
change zone lines, seems to have emerged without the participation of the affected school
community. The CECs proposed zoning plan for PS241 makes no provision for
mitigating the impact it will have on the children in the building, and recommends an
engagement process only after the plan is approved. We ask, do the families in this
school and all the other schools in the northern part of District 3 deserve the same
policymaking process that has been afforded the more vocal families at PS199, PS452,
PS9, PS87, PS166 and the other lower district communities who have controlled the
discourse on this subject?
CEC leaders have often repeated the refrain that low-income parents, parents of color,
and parents from Harlem schools should raise equity concerns at CEC meetings and
that since they dont show up en masse like parents concerned about rezoning, they must
not be very concerned. There are several problems with such reasoning. First, as parents
and community members have commented: there has consistently been a lack of notice, a
lack of outreach, and a lack of infrastructure (language interpretation and childcare) for
meetings that have resulted in the de facto prioritizing of those with greater flexibility of
schedule and resources. Second, discussions about disparities and supporting low-income
schools have had to be virtually elbowed in at Zoning Committee meetings and CEC
public meetings. Since these meetings are never set up to discuss school equity, raising
these issues often appears off topic and is treated as a distraction from the severely
limited issues around which agendas have been planned. Given the need to literally clear
space to talk about school quality, and the often hostile and dismissive response from
CEC leadership, the claim that the CEC is open to parents is disingenuous at best. The
combined result is that parents concerned about equity and parents at low-income schools
have little reason to view the CEC as a place where they can find representation.
Community-Controlled Choice
Parents, PTAs, SLTs, and community advocates have been asking since 2014 for CEC3
to consider Community-Controlled Choice as a way to remedy unequal schools,
admissions criteria that offer disproportionate choice to privileged families, and over- and
under enrollment. There is no other proposal on the table to address those problems.
In its October 18 letter, the CEC claimed that Community-Controlled Choice had been
considered but had left too many unanswered questions. Both of these claims are untrue:
it was never considered, and the CEC has never pursued answers. Further, the leadership
of the CEC has made clear that they oppose Community-Controlled Choice. Letters from
the leadership of the CEC to parents and advocates have made inaccurate claims that
controlled choice does not enjoy a level of support in District 3 that makes further

consideration prudent.1 The leadership of the CEC has made these profoundly
undemocratic assessments against Controlled Choice.
Under pressure from parents, advocates, and PTAs, the CEC held two deeply flawed
community forums to discuss Community-Controlled Choice. They were planned in such
a way that low-income parents were substantially excluded.2 The Task Force, which had
invested several years considering how Community-Controlled Choice might work in
District 3, was not allowed to present because it was not impartial. Instead, the CEC
created a panel with little knowledge of District 3, and limited what the panelists could
say. Lisa Donlan, a panelist who was then CEC1 president, detailed in a recent comment
on Chalkbeat that the panel appeared set up to preempt, rather than facilitate,
consideration of Community-Controlled Choice:
Despite my clear claims that, under the model of community-led controlled
choice, each community would need to clarify its own values and examine the
geographic and historical context that contribute to the segregation problem that
controlled choice could address, I was asked to answer questions about a plan for
D3 that had not been created!...
That process is not necessarily lengthy or expensive (in D1 we funded most of
our work- workshops, forums, studies, Town Halls, etc, with our CEC budget and
certainly could have been well advanced by now if it had been undertaken when
discussed many months ago
I was told by a CEC Task Force on Overcrowding panel organizer that I could
not use words like "segregated schools" as they are too hurtful
The panel was asked to provide a busing and transportation plan for a proposal
that had not been designed, and other such backwards planning requests.
These sorts of constraints and questions indicated an underlying general
resistance to actually exploring controlled choice as an option, based on a deep
aversion to removing zone lines, the ones that ensure privileged access to the most
resourced schools.
The panels felt set up in a way to avoid having to consider ways to reach for
real equity for all children by finding fault with controlled choice before it even
had a chance, so it would not be given consideration in D3.3
What would be needed to genuinely give Controlled Choice a real consideration is a
commitment from the CEC to invest in a community-wide planning process, similar to

For discussion of forum planning, see

the process that District 1 developed and implemented.4 This process would not be a
decision to implement Controlled Choice, it would be a decision to fully consider it, and
finally address the severe and entrenched inequities that plague our district.
Public process and Open Meetings law
The CEC has created an unfortunate practice of making decisions on behalf of District 3,
with little or no public consideration often accompanied by disingenuous claims that
they are actually the product of public engagement. The summary dismissal of
Community-Controlled Choice is one example. The CECs rezoning proposal letter is yet
There is a question as to whether the CECs plan required a public vote since there was
an action taken by the members of the CEC that proposed a rezoning plan. The New
York State Committee on Open Government is directed by the Freedom of Information
Law (FOIL) and under the Open Meetings Law to furnish advice and issue regulations.
The law requires public bodies, including the CEC, to provide notice of the times and
places of meetings and to keep minutes of actions taken. Open Meetings Law states: It
is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be
performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be fully aware of and
able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the
deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy." We are very
concerned that it appears that CEC3 did not follow the Open Meetings Law in proposing
a re-zoning plan to DOE without a vote in public. It is imperative that all actions by the
CEC be transparent so that the public may be engaged and informed in a proper and
timely manner about decisions that affect all the students in the District 3 community.
Finally including all of District 3 parents, schools, and communities
The CECs October 18th proposal to Chancellor Faria demonstrates that the CEC has
begun to recognize the problem of segregation and inequity in our District. But tacking
desegregation onto a small, piecemeal rezoning is a shortsighted approach that avoids
confronting the underlying causes and leaves the systemic problem unresolved. It is also
unconscionable to conduct desegregation without the participation of low-income
We respectfully request, once again, that you support our recommendation to engage
the District 3 community in a planning process to delve seriously into CommunityControlled Choice as a potential solution to the most pressing systemic problems that
create unequal schools.
We request that the CECs plan be rejected in favor of a more comprehensive plan that
reviews the entire district and fulfills the CECs unmet obligation to provide all District 3
parents and community with a public forum to air their concerns.

For information on CEC1s community engagement process, see

The families of District 3 deserve to have a real chance at equitable schools throughout
the district. Segregation (the problem) and overcrowding (its effect) need to be addressed
in a manner that deals together with defining and creating diversity, equitably funding
and supporting schools, improving school outcomes, halting the siphoning effect of
charter schools, and challenging the ownership of better resourced schools by
privileged families.
This cannot happen in a CEC that represents only the loudest, most privileged families
and schools. We ask, therefore, for your support in holding the CEC to its statutory
obligation to represent the rest of us, and to create equal educational opportunity for all of
our children.
Ujju Aggarwal
Marilyn Barnwell
Flor Donoso
Lori Falchi
Theresa Hammonds
Elena Nasereddin
Donna Nevel
Lizabeth Sostre
Members, District 3 Equity in Education
Task Force

Emmaia Gelman (PS 75)

Yassiel Nieves (PS 145)
Kavita Singh (PS 333/MSC)
Toni Smith-Thompson (Mott Hall II)
NYC Public School Parents for Equity
and Desegregation