April 20, 2015

Public, media continue to reject Cuomo agenda

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT Communications

The public backlash against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's destructive education agenda continues to gain momentum. Parents and concerned community members, working together with teachers and NYSUT, have sent a clear message to the governor that he will not destroy public education- and the future of our children- without a fight.  

Tens of thousands of parents, students, educators, administrators and citizens across the state have turned out to protest Cuomo's attacks on teachers and public schools. And, just last week, nearly 180,000 parents statewide made the difficult decision to withdraw their children from required standardized tests. 

NYSUT is now calling on the state Board of Regents to hold public hearings on what's needed to fix testing and evaluations. Meanwhile, the grassroots activism against the governor's "test-and-punish" agenda continues. And it is making a difference. Recent pieces in three major daily newspapers- the Times Union of Albany, the Buffalo News and the Journal News of Westchester County- all say that parents and their concern with the state of education in New York under Gov. Andrew Cuomo are a rising force that Albany must no longer ignore. Here's a summary: 

Times Union Columnist Fred LeBrun, pointing to the 177,000 students kept out of state testing last week by parents, said:

"That's not just an opt-out movement anymore. It's civil disobedience, and a step away from a growing stampede. That should make elected officials squirm, and they deserve it." 

But LeBrun didn't stop there. Echoing the call for public hearings on testing and evaluations, he went on to say: 

"The revolution is showing the power structure that it cannot keep poking the public in the eye with a sharp stick over this unwanted Prussian model of public education with no noticeable gain for all the pain. At some point, the public will grab that stick and shove it where the sun does not shine. We're at that point. 

"The immediate consequences of this revolution are not clear. But it is unlikely that the governor's coveted- by him- teacher evaluation system, which is about to become even more draconian, will survive. If even more students opt out of the math tests, the future of the entire Common Core agenda in New York is on the table. 

"The Regents would be well served to hold public hearings before they act. Listen first. The Legislature, in turn, needs to take a hard look at what it just slavishly passed for Cuomo and amend or repeal. It's that serious."

Donn Esmonde, columnist for The Buffalo News, had this to say about the brave parents who took a stand and decided to keep their children from taking the state tests:

"It would be one thing if they were a disaffected minority, a grumpy niche, a band of eccentrics. But their numbers have swelled to the point where they – and their message – can no longer be ignored. Not even by as large, autonomous and irrepressible a bureaucracy as State Ed." 

Esmonde went on to say: 

"Here and across the state, a murmuring has morphed into a movement. Concern has sparked a crusade. 

"They have a huge – and, it seems to me, justifiable – problem with their kids being force fed these now-annual exams of questionable content. The results are being more heavily tied by the governor into grading teachers and schools. At worst, it feeds a teach-to-the-test culture that undercuts learning, handcuffs teachers and disregards the strengths and interests of each kid. 

"There is a message in the rising opt-out chorus. For the sake of kids, parents and teachers, I hope it's heard – from Albany to Washington: Dial it back." 

And here are some thoughts expressed in an editorial by The Journal News: 

"The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership.  

"Our state leadership has failed to sell its brand of change, and the fallout has been dramatic and potentially debilitating to the entire system. 

"Tens of thousands of parents did not take the dramatic step of boycotting the state tests so that bad teachers could slip through the cracks. They did so because they know and trust their children's teachers more than they trust bureaucrats in Albany. They did so because they watched the failure of top-down implementation of Common Core standards in New York."