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July 9, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Election Coverage

In the 33rd district, seven candidates speak

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Isaac Abraham
“Because of my religious beliefs and upbringing, I sent my children to religious (private) school, so they were educated in all religious laws, the Ten Commandments and the Torah, to follow later in life and pass on to their children. Any parent (and elected officials mostly send their children to private schools) should have the right to choose where they want to send their children. If you take a good look of how many school safety guards there are in public schools and none in private, the test scores in private over public, the answer is sometimes very clear: private school.”

Ken Baer
“I do not have children. Nevertheless, I think that it is important that councilmembers send their kids to public school. Since city council parents would then have a vested interest in the public schools, this will help ensure that the system will get the resources necessary to provide a quality education for every youngster. Councilmembers who send their children to public schools would also take more of an interest in the input that parents have (or do not have) in the running of the schools.”

Doug Biviano
“I am a proud PS 8 parent with two children attending. One of the most gratifying things for me as a parent is walking my kids to school in the morning and knowing that they love their school because of the quality of teachers, facilities they have access to and daily parent participation. The public school system in New York is a strong and vitally important anchor institution, and quality education for all is the pillar of democracy and progress in our society. Given the current financial squeeze, it will be all the more critical that members of the Council demonstrate the political will and courage to stand up for our public schools. City Councilmembers with school-age children should send their kids to public school because it sends the proper message that our public schools are a worthwhile investment. Having a stake matters.”

Ken Diamondstone
“I have lived in our community for almost 40 years, the last 33 with my partner Joe. We do not have children, but if we did, we would send them to public school. Public schools are the backbone of Brooklyn, and as leaders we must be fully invested in our communities. I am a graduate of our city’s public schools, and I know the importance of a public school system that meets the needs of students and parents. The mayor is cutting education dollars from the city budget. He didn’t go to school here — I did, and I care.”

Steve Levin
"While I do not have any children yet, I understand that the choice of where to send one’s children for school is among the most important decisions that a parent can make. I believe that this decision should be made by each parent after careful consideration of what is best for their child. That being said, the public elementary, intermediate, and high schools in the 33rd District are among the best in the entire city. We have world-class public school students, teachers, and principals as well as state-of-the-art facilities. If I were a parent, I would be proud to send my children to any of the public schools in the district."

Jo Anne Simon
“I do not have school-aged children, but my now-grown stepsons attended public schools. They received an excellent education — right here in Brooklyn. As Councilmember, I will look to make sure that all of New York’s children have a first-class education. There’s no excuse not to prepare all our children for the challenges of the 21st century, including our children with special needs and English language learners. Voters should evaluate candidates on their merits. Public, private, religious, in-district, out-of district – these are variables to be weighed by every parent. As a member of the Council, job one will be ensuring that every school child has an equal opportunity to receive a high quality public education."

Evan Thies
“As products of public education ourselves, my wife and I intend to send our children to public school because we believe that with good representation in government and strong parent involvement in our schools, we can have an education system that rivals or surpasses local private schools. As councilman, I will make reform and improvement of public education a top priority [and] advocate for more teaching than testing, and a parent-centered school system.”

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 David Yassky to represent the sprawling 33rd District, which stretches from Williamsburg through Brooklyn Heights to Park Slope.

The seven-person race features some childless candidates (Ken Baer, Ken Diamondstone, Stephen Levin and Evan Thies) and three candidates who had or have school-age kids (Doug Biviano, Jo Anne Simon and Isaac Abraham).

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

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Bob from Greenpoint says:
Public schools are good, privet is better!!!
July 9, 2009, 10:55 am
Janos from Williamsburg says:
I've always thought this is a deeply unfair question- if you don't have kids the politically correct answer is easy. The question also depends on your local school- some in Park Slope are really good, lessening the need for private school. Finally, how much follow up is there? I remember in 05 Ferrer got away with fudging his answer about his daughter.
July 9, 2009, 11:24 pm
bob from brooklyn heights says:
i always considered this question to be a "cheap shot" -- though not totally irrelevant. the more important issue is a candidate's position on public school funding (and on public funding for private schools through vouchers or any other means).

if a parent decides a particular private school is the best learning environment for his or her child, what gives us the right to question such a personal decision. conversely, should we think less of politicians who do send their children to public school because we reasonable presume (correctly or not) that they are willing to sacrifice their children to further their political careers?

we should look for leaders who will stand up for public school funding, leaders for whom the building and nurturing of quality public schools is an authentic priority -- regardless of where they send their children, and regardless of whether or not they have children.
July 12, 2009, 7:48 am

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