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In the 39th District, five men speak

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Can members of the City Council really understand our troubled schools if they send their kids to private schools? That question is once again front and center in the race to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio to represent the 39rd District, which stretches from Cobble Hill through Park Slope to Kensington.

The five-man race features some childless candidates (Bob Zuckerman, John Heyer and Gary Reilly) and two candidates who had or have school-age kids (Brad Lander and Josh Skaller) and have certainly made an issue of it during the campaign.

Here’s how the group answered the question embodied in the opening sentence:

John Heyer
My wife Maria has taught for eight years at PS 230 in Kensington. We're expecting our first child in October [and] I'm confident that once my child is of school age, he or she will attend public school as both Maria and I have done. I attended PS 58 — a great public school in Carroll Gardens — from kindergarten through fifth grade. Like many others in the district, my parents found it difficult to find a local public middle school to send me to. They enrolled me at St. Saviour in Park Slope, where I completed my middle school career, and Xaverian High School. Education is a major priority for my campaign, and I understand that testing students and grading schools are not substitutes for real evaluation. We keep hearing about expensive new initiatives to rank our schools rather than improve them. These priorities are out of whack. I think it’s time to drop what’s easy and do what’s right: fund our schools properly, and make our educational leadership refocus on building successful student-teacher relationships and reducing class size.

Brad Lander
I am a proud public school parent, with two kids at PS 107 in Park Slope, where my wife has served on the school leadership team. We’re lucky to see first-hand what works: small classes, a great principal, dedicated teachers, and active parents. Access to quality public education is fundamental to democracy. So our schools need real champions in public office — people who have shown that they’ll fight for what our kids need: A high-quality, neighborhood elementary school, more teaching and less testing, genuine parent involvement, real support for teachers, greener, healthier schools.

Gary Reilly
Mia and I haven’t had children yet, but we are both products of public schools from kindergarten straight through college and in my case law school. I am absolutely committed to public education and if we are blessed to have a family, our children will absolutely attend public school. I don’t think it’s my place to insist that any elected official send their kids to a public school. What’s more important to me is that elected officials establish policies that preserve and improve our public education system, and protect our system from being cannibalized by private institutions and charter schools.

Josh Skaller
I have been an educator for years and I come from a family of educators. Kelly, my wife, teaches in Brooklyn public schools, and she loves her work and her job. Both of us have a deep commitment to the public schools. The selection of our child’s school was a serious, difficult and personal issue, and we chose to send our son, Wolf, to a neighborhood private school based on his unique needs. He is now 8 years old. Every child deserves a quality education. I support giving our public schools the resources they need to succeed, and I support the individual choices that parents all over Brooklyn make when raising their children. As Councilmember, I will work to guarantee parents have a real voice in schools, and I will fight to end the minefield of mind-numbing standardized tests.

Bob Zuckerman
Decisions regarding a child’s education are among the most important parents face. Although I am not a parent, my partner and I have discussed raising a child together. It is not for me to judge a parent’s decision about the type of school his or her child attends. However, I'm a product of the public school system, and there's no doubt that public education continues to be the great equalizer of our society. Here in the 39th District, we are fortunate to have some of the finest public schools in the city. Of course, I recognize that as schools grow, challenges and frustrations grow, too. As our next Councilmember, I will lead the fight to increase spending for more schools, advocate for greater parental involvement, and support innovative efforts for school improvement. With the right leadership in the Council, we can continue the proud tradition of producing great New Yorkers from our great public schools.

Updated 4:30 pm, July 9, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

jonathan from Park Slope says:
Why exclude Green Party candidate David Pechefsky from expressing his views on the very important issue of sending one's own kids to public schools? (He has.) He's an active candidate for this Council seat, isn't he?

Additionally, in the print introduction to the public school question, you promulgate MISinformation (or at least contradictory information when taken in conjunction with the article on David that you did print) when you state: "The five-man race to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio..." Come on now, Gersh, isn't it a 'five man race for the DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio'? Isn't Pechefsky also in the race, making it 'a six man race' at this point in time?

Playing loose with the facts is just confusing for your readers who depend on you for accuracy.
July 10, 2009, 3:36 pm
Sandy from Kensington says:
Brad Lander is so proud that he's the only candidate in the 39th with children in public schools. Stop sniping at Josh Skaller for placing his special needs son in a neighborhood private school!
Aug. 10, 2009, 2:42 pm

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