Bay Ridge

Barkan’s education plan stresses school funding

Bay Ridge senate candidate wants permanent mayoral control

January 25, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Senate candidate Ross Barkan, pictured outside his alma mater, P.S. 185 in Bay Ridge, says his education platform will make schools better. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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A Democratic candidate hoping to unseat powerful Republican-Conservative state Sen. Marty Golden in November reached back into his past to come up with an education platform to change the way New York City’s public schools operate.

Ross Barkan, an award-winning journalist making his first try at running for public office, was a teacher before he became a reporter and said his experience in the classroom helped him formulate his multi-pronged plan.

Barkan vowed to reduce overcrowding in schools, fight for the city’s fair share of education dollars from the state, halt the expansion of charter schools and fight for permanent mayoral control of public schools, among other items.

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Barkan, who is a product of Brooklyn schools, including P.S. 176, P.S. 185, the Brooklyn Friends Schools and Poly Prep Country Day School, earned a degree in English education from Stony Brook University and has a master’s degree in English literature from New York University.

He was a student teacher in Suffolk County and worked as a substitute teacher at Fort Hamilton High School in his native Bay Ridge before going into journalism. He writes for the Village Voice and the Guardian, among other publications.

“I know how much public schools mean to families across Southern Brooklyn. Marty Golden does not,” Barkan said. “It’s time for Southern Brooklyn families to finally have a state senator who gives their children and their schools the support they need.”

Barkan is running against Andrew Gounardes, chief counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in the Democratic primary later this year. The winner will face Golden in the Nov. 6 general election.

Golden, who was first elected in 2002, represents the 22nd Senate District, a seat that includes all of parts of several Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Midwood and Borough Park.

New York City’s public schools are woefully underfunded, according to Barkan, who said the city is still owned close to $2 billion stemming from a court ruling in a 2006 lawsuit brought by parents who charged that the city’s kids were being cheated when it came to getting education funds from the state.

Barkan cited a report from the organization Alliance for Quality Education, which found that Fort Hamilton High School, New Utrecht High School and Leon Goldstein High School, all of which are located within the 22nd Senate District, are collectively owed more than $10 million.

“We must continue fighting for this much-needed funding until Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature finally do the right thing,” he wrote in his platform.

Barkan’s platform includes a plan to reduce school overcrowding.  He vowed that if elected, he would work to secure funding to build at least one new public school in each of the three school districts (20, 21, 22) in the 22nd Senate District.

Overcrowding is a serious problem that is in increasing danger of becoming out of control, according to Barkan, who said that in 2016, 80 percent of students in New York City were in classrooms that exceeded state standards for class size.

The running of the city’s school system should be given to the mayor permanently instead of having the state Legislature issue one or two year renewals, a process that forces the mayor to go hat in hand to Albany to ask for permission to oversee the schools in his own city, Barkan said.

“We must have permanent control over our school system and not have to repeatedly beg suburban and upstate Republicans in the State Senate for renewal of mayoral control,” he wrote.

The state’s love affair with charter schools has to end, Barkan said. “By now, it is no secret that charter schools are not the shining beacons they claim to be,” he wrote.

His platform calls for a halt to charter school expansion and an end to co-locations, in which traditional public schools are forced to share space with charters. The state should be doing a better job of providing space and resources to traditional public schools, he said.

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