ALBANY, N.Y. Feb. 2, 2016 — New York State United Teachers today said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia's appearance at Charter Advocacy Day sends the wrong message at a time when she should be fully focused on working with the Board of Regents to immediately fix the state's broken testing system and urging legislators to approve a significant state aid increase.
Meeting with parents to gather input is one thing, but "The commissioner's appearance today at a political rally sends the wrong message entirely," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "The commissioner is creating a distraction and sending the wrong message to the Legislature. The Common Core Task Force issued 21 recommendations that, as a whole, would put New York on a path toward ending the era of test-and-punish. Some 96 percent of students in public education attend traditional public schools. Parents and teachers are running out of patience with the pace of change. They expect the recommendations to be adopted by the Regents with fidelity — immediately. That should be the commissioner's focus."
Magee added, "Traditional public schools that serve the state's neediest students have been devastated by budget cuts. The state still has not fully funded the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement. The commissioner should be rallying instead for the billions in state aid that our schools are owed."
On the contrary, Magee noted, charter schools are flush with cash and do not need additional funding increases. A March 2015 NYSUT report found that the state's charter schools held $282.2 million in cash and $392.1 million in unrestricted net assets. The 200 charters studied held an average of 25.3 percent of their annual budgets in cash reserves.
NYSUT's statement comes in the wake of a letter to Elia on her refusal to lessen testing days for students as the Common Core Task Force recommended.
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino said, "The commissioner should demand that charters stop excluding students with special needs and those who are English language learners, while making it clear that the practice of keeping 'got to go' lists and pushing out students is unconscionable. Traditional public schools embrace the opportunity to serve every child. Too many charters do not.
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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