May 02, 2014

NYSUT's 'Picket in the Pines' slams hedge fund influence on schools

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
picket in the pines

ALBANY, N.Y. May 2, 2014 - Parents and educators organized by New York State United Teachers will stage informational picketing Sunday in Lake Placid, protesting at Camp Philos, a $1,000-a-person education conference sponsored by hedge fund managers and billionaires who have used their enormous campaign donations to impose their so-called "reforms" on public education.

Picket lines will set up at the exclusive Whiteface Lodge about 4 p.m. Sunday. Parents and educators are calling attention to efforts by hedge fund managers and Wall Street tycoons to privatize public education; expand standardized testing and the Common Core; collect and manage private student data; push test-based teacher evaluation systems; and remove teachers - and their unions - from important decisions about the future of public education.

Camp Philos - billed as "a philosopher's camp for education reformers" - is organized by Education Reform Now and its deep-pocketed political action committee, Democrats for Education Reform. Two of its leaders - John Petry, founder of Sessa Capital, and Joel Greenblatt, founder of Gotham Capital - have alone contributed more than $600,000 to political campaigns since 2010. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the honorary chairman of the three-day event.

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the pickets symbolize growing anger among educators and parents over state education policies. "The only thing missing from this education conference is actual educators. Camp Philos doesn't want to hear from them," Magee said. "New Yorkers should be alarmed that billionaire campaign donors and their supporters are trying to drive the education policy debate at the expense of what students and parents want for their public schools."

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said he is deeply concerned about the impact a handful of very wealthy, self-described "reformers" who make big campaign donations are having on education policy in Albany. The recent state budget, he noted, included giveaways to privately operated charter schools, which siphon money from school districts in an undemocratic fashion. Local taxpayers are required to fund charters, but do not have a voice or a vote in how they are run.

"The state's priority should be the 97 percent of students who attend regular district schools - schools which have been harmed by deep program cuts and an undemocratic tax cap," Pallotta said. "Instead of catering to the whims of very rich education philosophers who know nothing about what happens in classrooms across the state, we need leaders in Albany who are going to fight for what students, parents and educators want for their public schools."

Picket in the Pines Tentative Program

Advocates will meet at the Comfort Inn, 2125 Saranac Ave. in Lake Placid, NY.

1-2 p.m: Lunch

2-3:30 p.m: Presentation by Sabrina Stevens of Integrity in Education

3-4 p.m: Picket sign-in and sign making

4-5 p.m: Picketing at the Whiteface Lodge where Education Reform Now and DFER are meeting

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.

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