Members of Make the Road New York (MRNY) staged a protest last week outside the Downtown Brooklyn headquarters of StudentsFirst.
Chanting “keep you policy out of our community,” the protesters were upset over StudentsFirst’s call for more standardized testing and other education policies they argue would make school more difficult for immigrants.
“This organization is led by millionaires and uses the tactics of political endorsements to promote and influence our political debate and to promote its agenda,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of MRNY.
She then called upon elected officials to refuse StudentsFirst campaign contributions to stop the organization from gaining political leverage.
Critics of the organization take issue with the group’s stance on standardized testing. StudentsFirst supports more testing, which immigrant student advocates say is unfair because the tests are only offered in English.
Another major issue that protesters had with StudentsFirst policy is the organization’s promotion of the expansion of charter schools in the New York City area.
According to MRNY, Latinos account for 40 percent of the enrollment in New York City’s public schools, but represent only one-third of the charter school population. Protesters believe that less Latinos attend charter schools because only five percent of charter schools are classified as English Language Learners.
“I took my English regents five times,” said Wilian Mejia [member of Make the Road New York], an immigrant student from Honduras. “I finally passed it, but my score was very low.”
If Mejia did not eventually pass the test, he would not be eligible to graduate from high school.
Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens is one elected official who has vowed not to accept campaign donations from StudentsFirst. As a former educator, Dromm criticized the organization for approaching education as a business.
StudentsFirst released a statement in response to the protest, and accused MRNY of being manipulated by the teachers union.
“It’s sad that Make the Road NY is letting itself be used by the teachers union to make bogus and hypocritical attacks in an effort to avoid a conversation about improving public education in New York,” read the statement.
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