ALBANY, N.Y. August 11, 2014 - Protestors from New York State United Teachers demonstrated Monday on the steps of the State Education Department building, shredding a Pearson testing contract while speaking out against the growing corporate influence on teaching and learning in New York's public schools and colleges.
Demonstrators took direct aim at Pearson, feeding a copy of the giant testing company's $32.8 million contract with the state into a shredder. Protestors said Pearson wields undue influence on schools and students, including establishing the "cut scores" that determine which students are labeled as successful. Meanwhile, teachers are prohibited from discussing the Pearson test questions and content publicly.
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the Pearson contract is symbolic of an increasing — and disturbing — trend toward the privatization of public services, with profit-making companies vying to silence the voice of educators while dismissing students' needs.
"Decisions about teaching and learning should be made primarily by educators and parents, not billionaires and corporations. Whether it is Pearson or Campbell Brown or others who are part of the wealthy elite, we say it's time to say goodbye to the profiteers who are trying to privatize public education and cash in on our students," Magee said. "We are speaking out against the deep-pocketed forces that want to privatize public education and erode due-process rights."
Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, "Testing company CEOs and hedge-fund backed school privatizers are the only ones benefiting from their rabid assault on public education. Meanwhile, students and the teachers that educate them every day are being harmed. It's time we re-focus this discussion on what truly matters: maximizing our children's ability to learn, appreciating our teachers for the roles they play in providing the prospect of a brighter future for their students, and away from those whose only interest is to increase bottom-line profits."
United University Professions President Fred Kowal said, "Pearson's involvement in the state's teacher certification exams is a classic example of a public good being undermined for private gain. Profiteers aren't concerned about students. The bottom line is what matters to big business. We cannot allow corporations to continue their systematic exploitation of public higher education. It must end now."
The Center for Media and Democracy recently released a report showing that more than 800 bills and resolutions have been crafted and pushed by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote vouchers and attack seniority and teachers' due-process rights. The Walton Family Foundation, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools and right-wing groups, is a leading funder of privatization attempts.
According to researchers at the University of Southern California, corporate foundations such as Gates, Broad, Walton and Dell, along with private philanthropies, spend at least $6 billion annually to influence education policy. Former CNN host Campbell Brown, who is a spokesperson for a new legal attack against teachers' due-process rights, is widely believed to be funded by corporate foundations and those in the 1 percent, although she refuses to release the names of her donors.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.