South African-born and Brooklyn-raised, Mona Davids is known to most New Yorkers for her education advocacy as the President of the New York Charter Parents Association and the New York City Parents Union. As a proud of mother of a sixteen year-old girl and six year-old boy, Mona became involved in education advocacy while on maternity leave in 2008. She started at her daughter’s elementary public school, becoming a PTA Co-President.
Mona is the the lead plaintiff in the historic Davids v. New York Education Quality lawsuit (Index Number: 101105/2014) filed on July 3, 2014 in Staten Island Supreme Court, New York City.
Davids v. New York seeks to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions within New York State’s Education Law that deny students the “sound basic education,” considered a fundamental right under Article XI, §1 of the New York State Constitution.
Davids v. New York is about modernizing the teaching profession and ensuring that our education system is performance-based and not quality-blind. Above all, Davids v. New York is an affirmation of the importance of teachers to the quality of students’ education and it is a challenge for all of us to do things differently to make sure our students are getting all of the resources they need to succeed. New books and desks are not enough; there must be a highly motivated, highly effective teacher in each classroom every day.
Mona’s advocacy led her to found the New York Charter Parents Association in 2009 after her daughter entered a charter school and Mona learned that charters are not required to have PTA’s and, worse, refuse parents requests to establish one. Her advocacy for the rights of parents and students in charter schools led to her leading the charge to change New York State Education Law and the Charter Schools Act. Mona lobbied lawmakers to convene charter school hearings, for the first time ever, where she presented essential reforms to the Charter Schools Act. Mona also fought to require public schools receive matching funds to renovate their space when co-located with a charter school.
The common-sense and now universally accepted charter school reforms passed in 2010 included:
1. Requiring charter schools to serve their fair share of Students with Special Needs and English Language Learners.
2. Requiring every charter school in New York City to establish a Parent Association or Parent-Teacher Association.
3. Requiring the New York City Department of Education to provide matching renovation funds to district schools that are co-located with a charter school to address the damaging separate and unequal facilities between district schools and the charter schools they are co-located with.
4. Requiring every district an charter school co-located in a public school building have a shared-space committee consisting of a parent and teacher from the charter school and other schools in the building. This committee must meet at least four times per year. No changes to the building space may occur without the approval of the committee.
5. Prohibiting charter leaders and staff from serving on the board of their charters.
6. Requiring charter school board members comply with the Public Officers Law and sign such disclosure and conflict of interest statements.
7. Requiring all charter board meetings be posted and parents be notified of the time and place a minimum of 72 hours in advance. Charter board meetings are subject to Open Meetings Law and can be videotaped and recorded.
8. Stripping the New York City Department of Education of the authority to authorize new charter schools because of their lax oversight of their charter schools.
As a parent activist, Mona and her children, have been involved as plaintiffs in many lawsuits fighting for equal access to a high quality education for all children. Mona fights vehemently for parents’ rights and students’ rights in district and charter schools.
In December 2010, Mona joined other public school parents in suing the New York State Education Commissioner and the City of New York for granting Cathie Black a waiver that enabled her to become Chancellor of the New York City Public School System. Mona joined public school school parents in founding the Deny Waiver Coalition that launched a campaign against the absurd appointment of Cathie Black.
In May 2011, Mona founded the New York City Parents Union to fight for the rights of all parents in the public school system. The New York City Parents Union announced it’s birth by filing a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) to halt botched Community Education Council elections. Parents and elected officials pleaded for weeks with the NYCDOE to redo the elections – to no avail. Upon receiving court papers from the New York City Parents Union, the DOE immediately halted the elections and negotiated with Mona to restart the elections and properly notify parents there was an election occurring and how they may vote for their parent leaders.
In June 2011, the New York City Parents Union and Class Size Matters filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg for violating the Charter Schools Act and Education Law for not charging charter schools rent “at cost” per the law. In March 2014, three (3) years later, while our case was still active, Governor Andrew Cuomo changed the law, allowing charter schools to have free space and requiring the NYC Department of Education to pay the rent for charter school private space.
In February 2013, Mona and New York City Parents Union members filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Governor Andrew Cuomo from punishing our children by recouping $290 million in funding as a penalty because the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor Bloomberg failed to come to a teacher evaluation agreement. In May 2014, it was revealed via secret recording that the president of the teachers union purposely sabotaged negotiations knowing that our schools and children will lose $290 million in funding.
In November 2013, Public Advocate Tish James, Class Size Matters, and the New York City Parents Union and their members as plaintiffs, including vice president Sam Pirozzolo, filed a lawsuit to halt Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last minute co-locations for district AND charter schools. NYPCU believed the co-locations for both district and charters were rushed without proper review. Majority of co-locations in New York City are for district schools, not charter schools. NYCPU believes all co-locations must be fair and equitable.
In December 2013, Mona as lead plaintiff joined parents in a lawsuit, against the NY State Department of Education seeking to halt the disclosure of student and parent data to inBloom, a private corporation. NYSED and Commissioner John King contracted with inBloom to collect private, personal information without the consent of the parents. The outcry and outrage of disclosing sensitive student and parent data resulted in the NY State Legislature passing a law banning the NYSED from contracting with inBloom and disclosing student and parent personal information without parent consent.
In February 2014, Mona, the New York City Parents Union and its members as plaintiffs, joined parents from throughout New York State in a lawsuit demanding Governor Cuomo and the State of New York comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit ruling that stipulated our children were being shortchanged funding in the billions. Our lawsuit seeks $1.4 billion dollars immediately out of the $4 billion currently owed to our children.
A strong supporter of Parent Empowerment, Mona supports school choice and a parent’s right to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs–public, charter, magnet, specialized, parochial or private.
As a result of her advocacy work in New York City and Albany, Mona has cultivated an excellent relationship with union leaders, education reporters and political reporters and bloggers. Mona is recognized as a valuable source on education, community and labor related issues. Mona has appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, NY1, ABC7 News, Fox 5 NY, WCBS Channel 2 News, WABC Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera News. Mona has been quoted by the NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post, TIME Magazine, NY Post, Legislative Gazette and other papers throughout the country.
Prior to the birth of her son, Mona worked for Azania – a company she founded that promoted bi-lateral trade and investment between the United States of America and African countries. An expert on the Africa Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA), working closely with the U.S. Commercial Service, Mona organized investment conferences on AGOA and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) country benefits in the U.S. and Africa, in partnership with multi-national banks including JP Morgan Chase and CitiCorp. Azania Holdings also sponsored multiple international trade and networking events in New York City including the 70th Anniversary of World Trade Week and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s, Brooklyn Goes Global. Mona and Steve Kaplansky, former Director of Brooklyn Goes Global, also negotiated the Memorandum of Understanding between the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Mona also conducted country briefings and trainings for U.S. executives leading Fortune 500 companies stationed in South Africa.
Prior to starting Azania, Mona worked for Dutch companies, Schiphol USA Inc. and MeesPierson Investment Bank. Mona is multi-lingual and conversant in Afrikaans, Dutch, Flemish, Hebrew, German and Arabic.