Dear Partners in Public Education,
There are important policy debates happening in New York City as the public school system adapts to pandemic-induced remote learning. In some of these debates, our organization has been referenced as a stakeholder. We thought it would be helpful for those involved in the debates to know who we are, how we came about, and what we have accomplished.
So let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Who we are
The Education Council Consortium (ECC) is a collective of unpaid parents and community members who currently serve or have once served on Citywide and Community Education Councils(CCECs). We have members from all 36 Councils and represent public school students, including children who are receiving special education services and those who are English Language Learners. The families we represent come from all walks of life; they—and we—are diverse in ability, age, nationality, race, religion, and socioeconomic status.
The origin of the ECC
The Education Council Consortium was formed in late 2013 to more effectively advocate for the role of parent leaders in school governance, and to tackle the common systemic issues that affected every council. It provided support to new parent leaders in ways that NYC DOE’s Division of Family And Community Engagement (FACE) could not.
The founding members of the ECC met in fall of 2013 to draft a letter to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio with issues that were critical to parents at that time. The letter was sent that December, which culminated in then-Chancellor Carmen Fariña to reinstitute the practice of meeting with Presidents of Community and Citywide Education Councils (CCEC) on a regular basis (a practice that was abandoned under former Chancellor Joel Klein). It was from those regular monthly meetings that CCEC members decided to work collectively on common issues that most CCECs faced at the district level.
We believed that, by unifying our efforts, we could have a stronger impact on larger systemic issues that affected most students across the city. We realized that new CCEC members lacked the knowledge and understanding of how school governance, New York State education laws, and local regulations affected our districts. By forming the ECC, seasoned returning CCEC members could also support and help newly elected and appointed members become familiar with the process and governance, so that we could be most effective citywide. In essence, we recognized and took advantage of an opportunity to organize ourselves and advocate as a unified body at these meetings.
As a result of that advocacy, members of various CCECs were invited to serve on citywide task forces convened by Chancellor Fariña to develop proposals to improve the DOE (e.g., the School Space Working Group, chaired by then Deputy Mayor Richard Buery; Blue Book Working Group, co-chaired by Lorraine Grillo, SCA President). In partnership with organizations like UFT, CSA, DC37, Brooklyn Public Library, and NYU’s community rooms initiative, ECC members continued to meet and discuss our collective concerns.
Gradually, a more formal organization was formed, with formal bylaws and a name: Education Council Consortium. Chancellor Fariña also agreed to meet with CCEC members on a regular basis, and a process was established to ensure effective meetings. It was important that meetings not be limited to council presidents but be open to all ECC members. Chancellor Fariña convened meetings to establish relationships and to share her vision and initiatives, which culminated in the establishment of ECC working groups where ECC members were invited to work with DOE staff to develop policy recommendations. Three working groups were initially set up in 2016: Parent Leadership, District Planning, and Equity & Diversity.
In addition to the working groups, issues were addressed as they came up through committees (internal to ECC without DOE). The sunset of the state law that gave the Mayor control of NYC public schools and the concerns about raising the cap and lack of accountability of charter schools led to the formation of the Legislative Committee and the Charter Schools Committee. Other committees include Capacity Building and Bylaws. An ongoing issue is the need for training of new members, many of whom expressed desire for better understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are. The ECC is a resource for new members to get information about the inner workings of the DOE from fellow parent leaders.
As strange as it seems, the ECC was first recognized politically by the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) when the ECC Legislative Committee began outreach on the Mayoral control law in 2015. Since that time, several resolutions on mayoral control have been passed and submitted to the NY State Legislature. All resolutions passed by the ECC, including those on charters, mayoral control, reimbursements, etc. are carefully put together with research, meaningfully discussed and reviewed, and presented to the membership before they are approved by formal votes of the members.
When the NYS Senate held a hearing on mayoral control in NYC in 2016, two ECC members were invited to testify. In subsequent years when mayoral control was again set to sunset, the ECC was invited to testify at hearings by NYS Legislature. In 2019, working with the DOE, and NYS legislators from NYC, and with the cooperation of the Mayor, many of the recommended amendments were passed. This was the first time that a cooperative effort between all these entities occurred.
Through the formation of the ECC Charter Schools Committee, a resolution was passed that included recommendations that the NYS charter cap not be lifted, and that existing charters be subject to full accountability. Before approval, the resolution was presented and discussed, and there was consensus regarding the concerns of the proliferation of charters. Meetings were held with NY state legislators locally and in Albany, to make them aware that NYC parents were concerned about the proliferation of charters. While no action was taken regarding the charter recommendations, the charter cap was not lifted. As a result of collective work of various CCECs, the ECC has been able to address and work with elected officials, DOE, and NYS Education Department on tackling those systemic issues that affect the children in NYC.
What has the ECC accomplished?
Resolutions ECC has passed
As you can see, we fight everyday for the children of this city - the students receiving special education services, the multi-language learners, and the historically marginalized. We fight to empower parents, for their voices to be heard and be at the table, and for the system to be transparent to all.
This is who we are, what we have done, and what we will continue to do, and we hope to continue to do it in partnership with you.
ECC Steering Committee