One of the people I have come to admire most in the past few years is Leonie Haimson.
You may not know Leonie, but you should. Leonie lives in New York City. Her children attend public schools. She is New York City’s leading parent activist. She created an organization called “Class Size Matters.” She was a founder of Parents Across America.
For many people in New York City, especially parents, Leonie is their main source of news about public education in New York City and the nation. Leonie created a listserv (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the New York City parent blog (
Long before I had my own blog, I began blogging for the New York City parent blog and got to meet some of the smartest and most dedicated parents and teachers in the city.
In addition to being a tireless organizer, Leonie is also a talented writer. Her own blogs, both on the New York City parent blog and at Huffington Post, are always incisive. She is a brilliant analyst of research and is able to take apart whatever claims are made in studies, reports, and press releases. No one is able to put anything over on her. And she is fearless: She goes after the powerful with data, knowledge, and the wrath of a parent who cares deeply about children, and not just her own children.
It’s important to note that Class Size Matters and Parents Across America operate on something less than a shoestring. I tried at one point to get foundation funding, but every door was closed to a genuine parent group. As we know, the astroturf groups collect millions to advocate for privatization and to attack teachers. Since Leonie worries about class size and speaks out against privatization, she is not in tune with the agenda of the faux-reform movement.
I am on the board of Class Size Matters. We meet once a year. Needless to say, the board is unpaid, as Leonie is unpaid. She testifies at City Council meetings, at Assembly hearings, she issues press releases, she is a one-woman campaign to restore sanity to the New York City public schools and to public education across the nation. There have been times–rare, to be sure–when she felt discouraged. And I reminded her that it was our duty to outlast all the bad ideas now swamping education.
Those bad ideas will in due time be publicly understood to have failed. And when they are, one of those most responsible for revealing their flaws and for pointing the way to wiser policies is Leonie Haimson.
Class Size Matters will have its annual dinner on June 12, honoring Regents Kathleen Cashin and Betty Rosa, both of whom have bravely resisted the popular tide of high-stakes testing and mean-spirited accountability. If you live in or near New York City, please come: