All children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, income or citizenship deserve access to a high quality, public school education that meets the student’s individualized academic needs. New York has failed to provide this education to all of its students, and it is incumbent upon all of us to fight for better.
We must recognize the value in creating a diverse and inclusive education system that works to improve and expand outcomes for all students, regardless of race, income, or zipcode. Disparities in our education system existed long before COVID, and as we set a course for recovery we must also work to eliminate inequities within our schools.
During the course of this pandemic, parents and students alike have been faced with impossible work-from-home challenges, simultaneously managing work, childcare, and education. As a working mom and a former school social worker, Tricia understands these issues firsthand and is committed to advocating on behalf of all families as we recover from COVID-19. As we rebuild, we have an opportunity to reform our educational infrastructure by increasing teacher pay, decreasing class sizes, and closing the digital divide.
With the understanding that education is rooted in the community and the continued advice of her Youth Advisory Board consisting of local public school students,Tricia will prioritize the following issues:
Tricia supports reopening in-person education as quickly and as safely as possible, in accordance with the CDC. Working families are contending with extraordinary exhaustion and financial challenges after a year of simultaneously balancing work, childcare, and education. Countless students and families rely on being able to attend school for access to food, internet, and even healthcare. New York State and City must prioritize vaccinating teachers and other school support staff and ensure that all schools are equipped with an abundance of PPE in order to keep everyone safe. Social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent sanitation of school spaces should be a fundamental element of reopening, along with increased and consistent COVID-19 testing of students and teachers. We must also begin planning now for the fall school year, with remote learning options for those families who may be unable to return to in-person. Tricia will advocate for the creation of school-based advisory panels of parents, students, and educators to steward the reopening process moving forward.
The establishment of Learning Bridges has been essential for filling childcare gaps during remote learning. However the Upper East Side was allocated less than 70 seats. We must immediately expand the Learning Bridges Program by engaging with more community-based organizations in every neighborhood, and extend a true network of supportive options for families who are still struggling through remote learning.
Tricia will build a coalition of parents, students, alumni, and teachers to reform the screening process, and create a system that balances test scores with previous academic performance, teacher evaluations, and other metrics in order to more holistically assess our students. We should use testing as a diagnostic instrument and incorporate other considerations about a student's achievement, background, and motivation. Currently, there are only 16,000 seats for the gifted and talented program, for New York City’s 1.1 million students. As a City Council Member, Tricia will work to increase the number of seats and expand access to the gifted and talented program in all districts. We must create multiple opportunities throughout elementary school for evaluation to enter the gifted and talented track, rather than using a single performance measurement from one moment in time to evaluate a child’s full potential. Ultimately, we must ensure that students of all backgrounds are given an equal opportunity to succeed.
Our children should have the option of attending their local community school in the neighborhood that they live in. For this reason, Tricia supports maintaining District 2 prioritization, while also recognizing that we must make a serious commitment to increasing the diversity of our schools. Achieving true diversity and inclusion in our schools is only possible through comprehensive investments in affordable housing in every community in our city. There should be multiple, high quality schools in all neighborhoods. Tricia will work to ensure schools have the funding they need by fighting for the state to release the $1.6 billion owed to New York City Public Schools from the CFE v. State of NY lawsuit.
Public school teachers are the backbone of our education system and deserve better financial and administrative support from New York City. Tricia will coordinate with the DOE, the teachers union, and school administrators to guarantee teachers fair wages, fair benefits, and fair hours for their essential work. Tricia will also support opportunities for continued professional development for teachers throughout their careers. She will also work to end the practice of teachers purchasing essential school supplies, such as pencils, paper, and calculators, with their own money - we must increase overall funding for our schools to supply basic and critical supplies for all our students. Tricia supports guaranteeing and increasing Teacher’s Choice funds to grant teachers purchasing power for special projects and educational enhancements.
Economic recovery is not possible unless we empower women to return to the workforce through the provision of universal childcare. We must implement a universal child care model that uses a wage-based sliding scale to ensure that the costs of childcare do not overwhelm a parent’s ability to care for their children. Tricia will advocate for the creation of financial and professional support for childcare providers to expand their centers and take on additional children. Small centers in particular have been impacted by the rising prices of childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tricia will fight to use the now-record number of empty storefronts to build out childcare, extended day, and afterschool programs.
Currently, only twelve of the thirty-two community school districts offer 3-K services. Council District 5 does not have 3-K. Tricia will continue to support the expansion of this program to ensure all New York families have access to 3-K.
Every child deserves to learn in an academic environment that meets their specific needs. As a former school social worker, Tricia understands the difficulties that students with disabilities face in trying to obtain a quality education and is wholeheartedly committed to fighting for our students. Families of students with disabilities who are unable to have their needs met in our public schools are forced to undergo lengthy, expensive, and complicated legal processes to achieve private school education. We must streamline and ease this process for families to apply for reimbursement. Tricia will partner with an educational attorney to hold regular clinic hours in her office to guide parents through this process, and advise on all available options. While she supports the streamlining of this process, Tricia will simultaneously push for structural improvements to our public schools, so they are better able to serve students with varying physical, auditory, visual, and learning needs.
Moreover, New York City is facing a shortage of pre-K seats for children with disabilities. More than thirty community-based preschools for students with disabilities have closed since 2014. Tricia will advocate for increasing funding for community based organizations (CBOs) to provide early childhood care for children with disabilities. She will also fight to establish a NEST program in District 2 for an integrated school setting with children with autism. She will fight to raise wages for special-education teachers and paraprofessionals to recruit and retain the best educators in New York City.
Tricia will support increasing the number of social workers on school campuses to have at least one school social worker per 200 students. We should be investing in our social workers, mental health counselors, teachers, and other professionals who are trained in appropriate interventions that maintain the safety and dignity of New York City students. Tricia will advocate for the removal of the NYPD and associated weaponry from our schools. We need a paradigm shift in disciplinary policies to prioritize trauma-informed, restorative justice policies and mental healthcare, rather than zero-tolerance, punitive approaches.Tricia will also push for better support systems in place for teachers, including classroom aides and mental health counselors in schools. It is incredibly important that teachers receive support in managing IEPs, so all students can receive the assistance they require to learn. Tricia will advocate for the funding to provide training and resources for teachers to implement restorative justice and trauma-informed practices in our schools to support struggling students.
Schools are often the only space where low-income students and families can receive access to healthcare, mental healthcare, and other essential services. Tricia strongly supports the community school model to provide wraparound services to students and their families. Schools should serve as a space of care for entire families, providing access to critical programs and services such as health care (including optometry, dentistry, immunizations, mental health care, and reproductive and sexual health services), mentoring, expanded learning programs (such as ESL), adult education, and small business workshops.
The concentration of old or dilapidated schools in low-socioeconomic areas stands in the way of educational equality. The City and State must expand funding for both new construction and renovation of existing academic spaces. All students deserve to have accessible, safe and clean classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, gymnasiums, and other educational spaces. We must ensure every school is equipped with sufficient air conditioning systems to mitigate dangerous heat vulnerability. Moving forward, school renovations should be completed according to Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) standards to increase the city’s environmentally sustainable design practices and renewable energy capacity. Tricia will also advocate for the implementation of community & school gardens that can supply meals to students, families, and community members in need.
New York City schools must prioritize the retention of homeless students and students who move due to financial difficulties. For families who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure, Tricia will support counseling programs concerning housing vouchers and credit to help families understand the educational systems they can access. We must expand the availability of housing choice vouchers to allow families more flexibility to select the school their children will attend.
COVID-19 has revealed profound and preexisting disparities in our community’s access to broadband internet and equitable educational resources. As a City Council Member, Tricia will work tirelessly to close the digital divide by implementing universal broadband. Moreover, Tricia will support initiatives that provide digital access to arts and culture for students, including museum galleries, performing arts, and literature. She will also work to increase access to supplemental math and science learning materials. Remote learning has given us the opportunity to embrace giving all students equal access to the best available learning materials to better support all New York City students.