NEW YORK—Zakiyah Ansari is an outspoken advocate for public schools and the loudest voice of education on Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s transition team.
On early Thanksgiving afternoon, Ansari tweeted that dismantling public schools for more charter schools is the “biggest US $ making scam of the 21st century” leaving black, Latino, and poor children as collateral damage.
The tweet may well sum up her stance on current education policy nationwide and may explain her place on the transition team.
Ansari is the advocacy director at the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit.
She first appeared on the public radar in 2007 as a parent leader for Coalition for Educational Justice.
Ansari, a mother of eight, criticized the creation of charter schools, saying it set parents against each other. All her children have graduated or are studying at New York City’s public schools.
De Blasio said he will make sure charter schools won’t get preferential treatment. He plans to charge the wealthy charters rent for spaces in public school buildings.
Ansari put forward recommendations to increase funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, testifying before Governor Cuomo’s New York Education Reform Commission in July 2012.
De Blasio latter adopted full-day pre-K as a key campaign component.
Further, Ansari recommended supporting low-performing schools, instead of closing them–an idea also adopted by de Blasio.
Finally, Ansari also put forward the idea of “real and meaningful” collaboration between the administration and parents, students, and educators–the perceived lack of which draw sustained criticism to the education departments of both the state and the city of New York.
Zakiyah Ansari is a friend of Diane Ravitch, education historian and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.
When Ravitch left the government two decades ago, she supported ideas of charter schools and the system of judging teachers on their students’ performance. She later changed her mind.
“I became disillusioned with the strategies that once seemed so promising. I no longer believe that either approach will produce the quantum improvement in American education that we all hope for,” she wrote in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal on Mar. 9, 2010.
In late August, Ravitch officially endorsed de Blasio’s campaign. “Bill de Blasio knows that he must rebuild the city’s school system so that there is a good public school in every neighborhood,” she wrote in a statement.
On Nov. 20, de Blasio picked Ansari to his Transition Team. “This is what REAL parent engagement is,” she reacted in a tweet. “A seat at the table.”