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Know Your Rights
Source: Courier Life Publications
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

CEJ Grabs DOE’s Attention

Their demands have been met by city Department of Education (DOE) officials and now the borough’s "most successful" parents group is preparing for its next fight.

The Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), an alliance of community groups including Make the Road by Walking, Cypress Hills Advocates for Education, and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), is readying a campaign for its next cause – improving the quality of education in public schools in low-income neighborhoods.

The coalition has already succeeded in getting the DOE to address its concerns about middle schools by creating new policies and programs.

After CEJ partnered with the City Council to lobby for improvements to local middle schools, which are often where student achievement declines, the DOE agreed to implement a $5 million pilot program meant to improve failing schools.

The coalition also took aim at educrats for requiring eighth-graders to take a science Regents exam but not equipping many schools with science labs.

The DOE has since announced plans to create a new $60 million science curriculum and spend $444 million to build science labs in city schools.

"The results speak for themselves," said James Dandridge, president of District 18’s Community Education Council (CEC).

He called CEJ the "most successful" at getting the DOE to address its concerns.

Based on that success, CEJ is confident that it can make an impact with its next campaign.

With the priorities still being finalized, at the top of the list is getting the DOE to provide mental health services in more local schools, and offering additional incentives to attract veteran teachers to low-performing schools.

"In certain neighborhoods we have a hard time attracting and retaining [veteran] teachers," said CEJ member Portia Armstrong.

Many CEJ members believe it’s also important for schools to offer "social and emotional support services" at schools.

Some city schools already maintain school-based health centers, which offer mental health services, but parents say the support should be available at more schools.

The most important message CEJ wants to send to the DOE is "listen to parents."

"Parents have to have a voice. Stop, look, and listen. We have something to say," said CEJ member Zakiyah Ansari, who has two children at I.S. 78 in Mill Basin.