Parents in Néw York are organizing statewide to demand a state board of education that reflects the interests of parents and students. The board in Néw York is called the Board of Regents. It is appointed by the State Assembly, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. The speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, effectively decides who will be appointed to the Regents. The current board, led by Merryl Tisch, is solidly supportive of high-stakes testing, trst- based evaluation of teachers, and rapid implementation of the Common Core.
It would be enlightening if the members of the Board of Regents agreed to take the 8th grade math test and publish their scores. Wonder how many would pass? You can bet their enthusiasm would wane if they had to do unto others what they want done to themselves.
Here is the parents’ statement:
Parents Demand More Accountability in the Appointment of Members of the Board of Regents
Parents across New York State are demanding that members of the Board of Regents up for re-appointment this March, Regents Christine Cea, James Jackson, James Cotrell, and Wade Norwood, publicly clarify their positions on the current education reforms.
“Those members of the Board of Regents who do not support an agenda that includes an immediate moratorium on high stakes Common Core testing and the sharing of student data must be replaced with new members who will recognize their responsibility to protect our children and our schools,” said Eric Mihelbergel, a public school parent in Buffalo and a founding member of the NYS Allies for Public Education. Mihelbergel went on to say, “the people of New York have lost confidence in Commissioner John King, Chancellor Merryl Tisch and the current Board of Regents to call a halt to these destructive education policies.”
Lisa Rudley, a public school parent in Ossining and a founding member of NYS Allies for Public Education, said “As evidenced in the Albany Times Union, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, the Regents’ policy on allowing privately funded fellows with little to no public education experience to drive curriculum calls into question the integrity of the system. We need an educational plan in New York not a marketing plan.”
The process of electing Board of Regents members has long been an elusive process that has not been widely understood by the public. Persons wishing to apply for a position submit a resume to Assemblywomen Catherine Nolan, Chair of the Education Committee, and Deborah Glick, Chair of the Higher Education Committee, by January 31, 2014. In-person interviews are then conducted in Albany in February by Nolan and Glick.
Although all legislators vote in early March, the process is controlled by the Democratic Majority of the Assembly. Many Republican members abstain from the voting process altogether, because it is so strongly controlled by the Democratic Majority and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Legislators are typically given less than 24-hour’s notice of the vote, and up to now, a current Regent is almost automatically re-appointed until they resign or retire.
“As a parent of four school-aged children, I am shocked at how the majority of Regents members have not listened to the protests of their constituents — parents, educators and members of the communities whose interests they are supposed to serve, and have been silent while the Commissioner imposes one damaging policy after another. It is time for REAL change at the Board of Regents and at the NYS Education Department” said Tim Farley, a parent and a principal of the Ichabod Crane School in Kinderhook, New York.
NYS Allies for Public Education is proposing parents adopt an Action Plan to lobby their legislators to appoint four Board of Regents members who will support a call for a moratorium on high-stakes testing, data sharing, and the Common Core modules and curriculum. In alignment with this goal, the organization will be sending out a survey to the current Regents members whose terms are up, as well as other applicants for these positions, to seek and publicize their views on these critical issues.
Jeanette Deutermann, public school parent in Bellmore and Long Island Opt-Out Facebook founder, says, “Parents will no longer allow Board of Regents members to be re-elected when they are not doing their job for children. We will hold legislators accountable for their votes for or against individual Regents. New Regents must be elected that support a moratorium on current practices.”
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and a founding member of NYS Allies for Public Education said, “Many educators have pointed out the high costs and low quality of the Common Core modules adopted by the NYS Education Department. These critics include Carol Burris, an award-winning NY Principal who in the Washington Post, pointed out that NYSED paid more than $14 million for faulty math modules produced by a company called Common Core Inc. At the same time, this same company has received millions from the Gates Foundation, which also spent $100 million to fund inBloom Inc., a corporation that is collecting highly sensitive and personal student information without parental consent, and putting it on a data cloud, so that it can more easily be shared with for-profit vendors.”
Though seven of the nine original inBloom states have pulled out, Commissioner King says he is determined to go ahead with this data-mining project, and is sharing the personal information for the entire state’s public school students with inBloom, despite the protests of parents, school board members, and Superintendents, as well as a lawsuit filed in court two weeks ago. The Gates Foundation is also helping to pay for the salaries of the Regents fellows who have been placed in charge of implementing the Common Core and this data-sharing project.
“This evident conflict of interest calls into serious question who is controlling education policies in this state, and whether private funders have been allowed undue influence over our children,” says Bianca Tanis, a public school parent in New Paltz and steering member of Re-Thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region.
New York State Allies for Public Education represents forty-five grassroots parent groups from every corner of the Empire State. The organizations are proud to stand with the parents, community members and fellow educators in NYSAPE to call for a change in direction and policy beginning with new leadership at the New York State Education Department.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”