Spectacular, messy democracy

American democracy in all its spectacular messiness was on full display Monday night in Iowa. I could have stayed up til the wee hours but I had to get on a bus to Albany at 6:00 AM the following morning for another messy exercise in democracy, known to us as Advocacy Day, a coordinated effort of the NYC Charter School Center and the Northeast Charter School Network (NECSN) to persuade our Assembly Members and Senators to think kindly of us during budget season.

We spend Advocacy Day scuttling around to meetings, with parents and students, snapping photos, rattling off our talking points and listening politely while our electeds do what they do best, which is to smile, nod their heads and make us feel that our voices matter and that they’re going to do the right thing.

It’s unlikely that anyone really knows the upshot of any of these meetings. In the weeks before a budget vote, stuff happens. The wind howls, somebody sneezes, somebody gets a candy bar and somebody else gets a knee to the groin. Then a handful of really important guys convene in a safe room and eventually a deal is reached and revealed. Sausage making at its finest.

But here’s what we do know: for all intents and purposes charter school PPR has been frozen since the Great Recession, save for a bone tossed our way courtesy of the State Senate. And NYC rents have risen, on average, nearly 50% in the same time. Clearly, we should all be in real estate…

But we’re not. Because most of us are still consumed with trying to do some good in the world. And it gets harder and harder to do good when the rent goes up and income is flat.

Persistence will get us there. C3S is setting up meetings with Assembly Members throughout the city on Fridays in February and March – the day they’re back in their home offices. Once we’ve scheduled the meetings, we’re contacting all the independent charter schools in that district, so please be on the lookout for a notice of a meeting near you and please send a few constituents to the meeting!

We can’t say this often enough: we need to get our message out. The great work that we’re doing in our schools can echo well beyond our neighborhoods if we sing about it together.

Steve Zimmerman, Co-director of C3S


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