March Issue
March 01, 2015

Magee: Calling out Gov. Cuomo for his anti-public education agenda

Author: Karen E. Magee, President
Source: NYSUT United
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee

From one corner of the state to another, NYSUT is calling out the governor for his threats, his scapegoating and his failure to support public schools and colleges.

NYSUT members, parents and entire communities are mobilized in an epic campaign for the heart and soul of public education. Through forums, rallies, marches, multi-media messaging and more, we are turning up the heat. NYSUT is escalating our campaign to stand up for what all kids need — from preschool through post-graduate education.

It's important for every NYSUT member to know this: Gov. Cuomo's war on public education is not limited to his attacks on teachers — although they are getting the lion's share of media attention. His Billionaires' Agenda also would hold funding for SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges hostage to a competition reminiscent of The Hunger Games. At a time when we should be expanding student access to higher education, Gov. Cuomo's agenda would narrow and restrict students' college options and their opportunities. If you strip away his budget gimmicks, Cuomo is proposing a destructive 10 percent cut in higher education operating aid that would worsen the harm caused by years of underfunding SUNY, CUNY and our community colleges.

It's unfair to students, and it's unfair to the faculty and professional staff who are challenged to fulfill public higher education's mission of teaching, research and health care. In a video message to members about the governor's higher ed agenda, I talk about the threat to CUNY, SUNY and our community colleges and what you can do ( to stand up for them.

In carrying the agenda of billionaire hedge fund managers, our governor is increasingly out of touch. He refuses to see how chronic funding shortfalls — and devastating inequity in how education dollars are distributed — have worsened the effects of poverty. Where students struggle, the common denominator is poverty. The state's failure to fairly provide resources should be the focus of state action this budget season.

NYSUT is leading this charge backed by a mighty groundswell of local leaders and members who are mobilizing like never before. Emblematic of the many, many initiatives across the state are: a persuasive PowerPoint developed by the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, led by Lisa Goulding; a touching student-centered video created by Janine Gibney of the Yorktown Congress of Teachers, led by Sean Kennedy; and a thought-provoking video resulting from a terrific collaboration by the Capital District Presidents Council.

United University Professions, led by Fred Kowal, has captured student voices telling the governor why SUNY is key to their futures. And the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, led by Barbara Bowen, is using radio to advocate for the significant state support CUNY deserves. These and many other initiatives can be accessed on NYSUT's website at

Because of YOU, legislators are hearing loud and clear why public colleges and schools need support, not scapegoating. Because of you, the public is learning through forums and rallies exactly why Gov. Cuomo's Billionaires' Agenda is a Trojan Horse packed with destructive proposals for our public schools and colleges. You are explaining why charter management needs to be held accountable, not given an unrestricted 4.8 percent boost in public dollars. You are making it clear why more than doubling down on the weight of standardized tests for teacher evaluations is repudiated by research and is bad for kids.

Because of YOU, a recent Siena College poll found that the public decisively favors our vision over the governor's test-and-punish agenda.

Newsflash: It's not just NYSUT and our activist members who are calling the governor out for his anti-public education agenda. A superintendent in suburban Rochester called Cuomo's budget an "all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control." New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari ña rejected Cuomo's push to expand the state's failed experiment with charter schools and gave a thumbs-down to more heavily weighting standardized tests. A superintendent in Bethlehem, an Albany suburb, says the governor is "using school aid as a pawn in the state budget process." Meanwhile, despite thousands of invitations, Gov. Cuomo has yet to be spotted during this legislative season visiting an actual classroom.

Gov. Cuomo must abandon his failed Billionaires' Agenda and start listening to the people who know each student by name.

Until he does, we will keep turning up the heat.