September 16, 2015

Billionaires' puppet Campbell Brown doesn't speak for us

Author: Ned Hoskin and Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT Communications
campbell brown protest
Caption: "Campbell Brown has got to go!" Leading activists to the Sagamore, left to right, NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, AQE Executive Director Billy Easton, NYSUT President Karen Magee and NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. Photo by El-Wise Noisette..

campbell brown protestBOLTON LANDING -- Nearly 200 supporters of public education on Wednesday manned the west end of the short bridge that leads to the posh Sagamore Resort to make sure the arriving guests got an earful:

"When education's under attack, what do we do? Stand up, Fight back!"

"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Campbell Brown has got to go!"

"Education is a right! Fight, fight, fight, fight!"

The parents, students, educators and activists were buoyed by a small, but mighty armada of boats rigged with signs. Overhead, a plane pulled a banner with the hash tag #BAD4SCHOOLS. They all joined NYSUT and the Alliance for Quality Education on the shores of Lake George to protest the keynote speaker at the annual gathering of the Business Council of New York State -- Campbell Brown.

"We've got to stand up, we've got to protect, we've got to defend," said Kerry Morris, a sixth grade teacher and member of the Saratoga Springs TA. "We're here to have a voice. … Public education is a right! We can't be selling it off!"

Her voice dropped a little and she shook her head, saying, "It's very emotional. I feel they are diminishing our profession."

A former cable news host, Brown is now a mere puppet for the wealthy elite who are trying to demonize teachers and undermine public education under the guise of "reform." Her first foray was to use the New York state courts to try and eliminate tenure and due process rights for tenure. She is not an educator, has never attended public school nor is a parent of a public school student.

"It's important that Ms. Brown and the business leaders of New York hear from educators, parents and other advocates for public education," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "Our schools are not for sale and we will not tolerate the wealthy elite trying to buy influence over our students' futures."

Standing at the edge of the bridge and noting the beautiful setting, NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta and Vice President Paul Pecorale thanked supporters for coming out. "And thank you to the Sagamore for having us, almost! The message is simple: Every child in this state should get to go to a great public school," Pallotta said. "Now, let's hear it for the boat people!"

The boat people -- educators from the Southern Adirondack League of Teachers, Queensbury, South Glens Falls and East Greenbush, and others, including Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner -- were busy hoisting posters, honking horns and shouting messages and chants with their colleagues on shore.

"We support public education. Campbell Brown doesn't speak for me. Education decisions should be made by those IN education," said Sarah Young, local president of South Glens Falls Faculty Association.

"Down with Brown!" read a sign on a boat full of teachers from Queensbury Faculty Association.

campbell brown protest
By air, by sea. Photos via Twitter.

The advocates called out Brown for doing the bidding of those who seek to privatize and profit from public education by attacking public schools and its teachers. She carries out her mission with large, secret donations to her Partnership for Educational Justice and its accompanying pseudo-news website.

Lisa Best, another SSTA member, said educators only want what's best for their students, their children. "And we want to protect our livelihoods. We don't need the millionaires to tell us what's best for the kids."

Mark Sullivan, a retiree member of Saratoga Adirondack BOCES EA, said it's the profit-driven charter schools that worry him. They divert so much money away from public schools, and they pick the students they want to work with and reject those with special needs. Because the charter schools are often not organized, "It really is union-busting," he said.

Earlier this month, NYSUT and AQE called on the state's elected officials to boycott Brown's appearance at the Sagamore. Many from both houses of the Legislature — and both sides of the aisle — agreed not to cross the picket lines.

"Campbell Brown is not out there to protect children, as she claims. She is a billionaire puppet and she is bad for schools. She is pushing a test and punish agenda focused on attacking teachers and our public schools," said Billy Easton, executive director of the AQE. "It is no wonder that so many state legislators are no-shows at this year's Business Council event."

While Brown won't reveal her donors , her website is backed, in part, by hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Walmart's Walton Family Foundation, all supporters of privatizing public education.

"It's baffling that the Business Council would invite Campbell Brown to speak on education," said Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York. "All she can offer the Business Council is the anti-public education rhetoric of her billionaire backers in support of privatization and more testing."

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