They wore blue and sang the blues, carried signs, wrote messages, signed an online letter to the Board of Regents by the thousands and pressed their case to the media: We must reclaim the promise of public education in New York state.
Parents, students, school and college educators, unionists, community members, retirees and elected officials — from Buffalo to Long Island — defied rain, ice and snow to come together in an unprecedented Day of Action to call for:
- Greater investment in public schools and colleges;
- A renewed focus on teaching and learning, not testing; and
- A three-year moratorium on high-stakes decisions regarding student and teacher performances based on state assessments.
The event was part of a National Day of Action called by NYSUT's national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, and dozens of groups, including Alliance for Quality Education and Citizen Action.
"We're here today, with more than 90 actions going on. Rain. Sun. Shine. Frost. All throughout the country. Ninety actions and growing," said AFT President Randi Weingarten, who, with NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi, started the day at 7 a.m. at Nyack schools.
"We are wearing blue in New York to calm the storm created by SED's flawed rollout of new standards," Iannuzzi told the crowd.
"More than anything, today is all about changing the future and putting the focus back on teaching and learning."
NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, speaking at an event in West Seneca, said the state must take a "recess."
"So much needs to be fixed right now. That is why we are calling on our legislators and governor to immediately implement a three-year moratorium on the consequences of high-stakes testing on both students and teachers," he said.
At a press event in Albany, Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions, called for a stronger investment in public higher education. "Over the last decade, SUNY enrollments have grown dramatically while state support for SUNY campuses has declined sharply. That imbalance must be righted," he said.
Cheryl Jones, vice president of the Association of Jamestown Paraprofessionals, spoke for many when she voiced concerns at a Jamestown event over the toll non-stop testing is having on students and educators.
"There's too much testing," she said. "We need to slow this down."
Teachers in Mohonasen completed the sentence "I am blue because ..." with phrases like "my students have less time to explore their talents" and "the students are suffering."
Parents, students and educators in Rochester sang the "Standardized Testing Blues," while their counterparts in Nyack belted "Data This. Data That" to the tune of "Jingle Bells."
Pam Percival of Parents for Public Schools of Syracuse said it's time for leaders to take responsibility for the fair funding of schools, pointing to the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.
"You have educational opportunities based on where you happen to be born, and that's not fair," she told The Post-Standard. "The courts agreed with that 10 years ago and we still have not acted on that."
"We're not just wearing blue, we're feeling blue," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira at the press event in Albany.
"We demand to be heard and expect action," she said.
For more photos from the Day of Action, go to www.nysut.org/dayofaction.