media
March 02, 2015

NYSUT asks Cuomo, Tisch and Berlin: Should charter schools be closing for rally?

Source: NYSUT Media Relations
As a matter of policy, should Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc., as taxpayer-funded public schools, be permitted to close their doors and transport students, parents and staff to Albany for a rally?

ALBANY, N.Y. March 2, 2015 - New York State United Teachers sent the following letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Acting State Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin:


letterhead 

February 27, 2015

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

The Honorable Merryl H. Tisch
Chancellor, Board of Regents
New York State Education Department
Room 110 EB
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234

Ms. Elizabeth R. Berlin
Acting Commissioner of Education
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234

Dear Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Tisch and Acting Commissioner Berlin:

In his December 18 letter, Director of Operations Jim Malatras opened a discussion about education policy in New York by suggesting, "Let's reframe the Albany dialogue from what is politically acceptable to what is the best education program for our future. In essence, what is the right thing to do for our students?"

Indeed, it is an excellent question.

Members of New York State United Teachers will be in Albany this week to meet with legislators on behalf of their students and the school districts they serve. They voluntarily will be lobbying with the support of their principals and superintendents, using personal days or release time to advocate for programs and additional resources for their students. Public schools will remain open, and instruction for all students will continue.

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz recently registered her charter network as a lobbyist with the New York State Commission on Public Ethics. On March 4, Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc., will close its public schools so that thousands of students and staff can attend a rally in Albany. Parents who do not wish their children to attend this lobbying event will have to find alternate child care or take a day off from work. Whether they believe this is sound educational practice or not, Success Academy CS teachers have no choice but to "volunteer" to attend this political rally or face recrimination, including the loss of their jobs.

New York State United Teachers is seeking your views on several important questions raised by the upcoming Success Academy event. As a matter of policy, should Success Academy Charter Schools, Inc., as taxpayer-funded public schools, be permitted to close their doors and transport students, parents and staff to Albany for a rally? Even if they use substantial private funds, is this the "right thing for students?"

If school boards and superintendents in the state's nearly 700 school districts also wish to close en masse for a day and transport thousands of their students, parents and staff to Albany to lobby for additional state funding, would that be permissible? Would you consider closing traditional public schools for a rally to be good public policy and the " right thing" for all students?

We ask you, as the state's education leaders, to immediately address the policy quest ions we raise about the lawfulness and appropriateness of closing public schools for political or lobbying events. As Mr. Malatras underscored, "We understand... there are political realities, but please give your opinion without political filters or consideration of the power of special interests and respond on what you think is best as a pure matter of policy."

Karen E. Magee
President

Andy Pallotta
Executive Vice President