A mobile exhibit is rolling through the city, inviting people to vote on what education issues the next mayor should focus on, and several leading Democratic candidates said they were listening Wednesday. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Education advocates have wanted mayoral candidates for months to "get on the bus" with school reforms. But on Wednesday, the candidates had an actual bus to board.
The school-bus-turned-interactive-exhibit is on a seven-day, five-borough, 40-stop tour. It is sponsored by A+ New York, a coalition of 45 advocacy groups that includes many of the mayor's most outspoken critics on education policy, like Class Size Matters, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Coalition for Educational Justice, and New York Communities for Change. Many of the organizations have close ties to the teachers union.
Inside the bus, members of the public are invited to vote for education policy initiatives they want the next mayor to focus on.
"We're going to get on the bus, we're going to vote, we're going to show that we know what high-quality education is, how it looks and how to get it to our students," said Natasha Capers, an advocate from A+ New York.
It first parked near City Hall in Lower Manhattan and some of the leading Democratic mayoral candidates got on board to vote.
The next mayor will be just the second to control the school system, since the Board of Education was dissolved during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first year. Education emerged right away as a major issue in the campaign.
So far, the Democratic candidates have done a better job distinguishing themselves from the Bloomberg administration than from one another when it comes to education policy.
The bus exhibit fits perfectly with one of the most common, and popular, campaign promises.
"It's important to listen to parents, teachers, students, future mayors and stakeholders have to say about how our public schools should be run," said City Comptroller John Liu, a probably mayoral candidate.
"For the last almost 12 years now, no one has reached out. No one wants to hear," said William Thompson, another mayoral candidate and former city comptroller.
"Talking to parents, to teachers, to advocates, to other educators," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, another mayoral candidate.
"Involving parents, involving communities, which is something we haven't had for years," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another mayoral candidate.
That is exactly what the bus organizers wanted to hear.
"For too long, our voice has been squashed or left out of the conversations," Capers said.
That is no longer true, or at least during campaign season.