Archives for category: New York

William Cala, superintendent of schools in Fairport, Néw York, wrote a scathing critique of Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase charter schools, fund “tax credits” for private and religious schools (vouchers), and increase the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.


This is what he wrote:


Dr. Bill Cala
Superintendent, Fairport Central School District

Good Morning!
This week’s State of the State address by Governor Cuomo was what most of us expected. It was an all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control. It appears that breaking teachers is his solution to poverty, income inequality and inadequate school funding.
As we have experienced on a first-hand basis over the past few years, the APPR system is indeed a fatally flawed proxy for genuine evaluation done at the local level. The governor’s solution is to up the ante by increasing the tenure period to 5 years and making state test scores 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Given the already bogus cut score setting process for the state exams, we are assured of a whole new wave of unreliable ratings designed to crush teachers, close schools and open the door to his other “reforms,” such as lifting the cap on charter schools and creating a tax credit for private schools and charters and increasing the amount the state gives charters per pupil. This last item of increasing charter aid is especially interesting as there are no strings attached. The regular public schools will only get an increase in aid if the legislature approves all of his draconian measures mentioned above. Two major studies have demonstrated with great clarity that charters perform worse than public schools and only 17% of charters perform equal or better to publics (CREDO 2013). Apparently, that’s fine….they get increases in spite of their failing performance.
Let’s be clear that the governor’s agenda has nothing to do with what is good for kids. Far from it. It is what is good for his financial supporters: the corporations who are making billions of dollars on the tests, the texts, the technology, the corporate professional development and the data collection, retrieval and distribution.
As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Walton’s, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed.
While the situation may seem hopeless, I believe parents are able to bring this tyranny to a screeching halt. Assessments should be used only for the benefit of students…..nothing else. Last year over 60,000 parents in New York refused the 3-8 tests. This year it is expect that number will triple. The refusal movement will indeed collapse the evaluation system and the governor’s plan to dismantle public education.
Parents will play a critical role. What role will we play? How will we speak out? This is our profession. These are our children. This is our responsibility.
Action and activism takes courage. Last week I spoke of my hero Rosa Parks. Let her courage and actions inspire us. I will close with the wisdom and inspiration of Frederick Douglass.
Where justice is denied; where poverty is enforced; where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress,; rob and degrade them; neither persons nor property will be safe.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.
Time to start plowing.

Kate Taylor of the New York Times checked with a few nonpartisan experts on Governor Cuomo’s claim that New York public education is in “crisis,” and in dire need of the draconian “reforms” he favors.


The experts said that New York public education is NOT in crisis. The public schools fare about the same as they did on national assessments as they did 20 years ago. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution says that if they are in crisis now, then they must have been in crisis for the past 20 years.


Aaron Pallas of Teachers College says it is unfair to use the Common Core test scores to gauge achievement because they are have a different passing mark from the previous tests. Only 30% passed the Common Core tests, but the year before, 80% were passing. The teachers didn’t suddenly get worse. The State Commissioner decided to change the standards.

Chester Finn, one of the nation’s leading conservative thinkers and president emeritus of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote an article in the New York Daily News saluting Andrew Cuomo for his forceful advocacy of charters and, especially, vouchers.

Since Néw York’s constitution has an amendment barring any public payment for tuition at religious schools, Cuomo calls it a tax-credit scholarship program. Republicans usually use the euphemism “opportunity scholarships.” But no one is fooled. The goal in New York and elsewhere is to subsidize the tuition of students at religious schools.

Finn writes:

“Cuomo is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Democratic governor ever to propose a program of private-school choice for kids and families in his state. Others (in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, maybe elsewhere) have tolerated this sort of thing when it originated outside of their offices, but this is the first time a state’s Democratic chief exec has taken the lead.”

What Checker Finn does not mention is that voters have never approved public support for vouchers in any state.

FYI, I was a trustee of the Fordham Institute for many years and a very close friend of Checker Finn. We even wrote books together. But I never agreed with him about vouchers, nor in his contempt for unions, nor in his fervent advocacy of anything that weakens public education. Maybe we differed because I graduated from public school, and he graduated from Exeter.

Steve Cohen, superintendent of schools in Shoreham-Wading River (NY), wrote a column in Ling Island newspapers criticizing the state’s heavy-handed method of mandating change.

For his courage in speaking truth to power, I add Superintendent Steve Cohen to the blig’s honor roll.

Cohen points to a letter from Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Néw York State Board of Regents, to Governor Cuomo’s representative, outlining her goals.

He writes:

“What’s striking in Ms. Tisch’s recommendations to the governor is the unstated proposition that there is a big difference between public education and state education, and that state education is far superior. From the chancellor’s point of view, public education hasn’t just failed poor, black and Hispanic children the most, but has somehow even failed kids in Great Neck, Jericho, Scarsdale and Garden City — even though many of them go on to the best universities in the nation.

“The remedy? State education.

“Public education is an old and very familiar institution. To be sure, school districts get their authority from New York State. But despite state guidance, school boards, and the administrators and teachers who work for these boards, have broad latitude to define curriculum and instruction.

“These boards and the superintendents they hire have authority over hiring and evaluating teachers and principals. The boards have a duty to propose a spending plan every year to district voters. Public education, in short, means “local control.”

“Public education is democracy in action. It has all the virtues and vices of our form of self-government. This democratic system has worked well in many districts, especially in those whose residents are relatively wealthy and thus able to afford the resources commonly found in thriving schools.

“But in poorer districts, and especially in large cities, democratic “local” control of education has not worked as well as we would all wish. The state Legislature has wrestled with this problem for generations and, in fact, is now under a Court of Appeals order to address fiscal inequities among districts.

“Public education is a complex, immense, difficult institution. Poverty and wealth more than anything tend to determine the outcome of its efforts.

“But it’s also among our most democratic institutions.

“Ms. Tisch, most of her non-elected colleagues and our current governor, however, seem to have arrived at the conclusion that local control of education does not, and cannot, work.”

“Now comes the chancellor’s suggestions that locally elected school boards should no longer have control over determining whether teachers and principals do a good job and that all teachers and principals who do not meet the state’s standard of successful teaching or supervising two years in a row must lose their jobs.

“Chancellor Tisch suggests that the content all children must learn and the methods teachers must use to teach that content will be determined by the state, not local residents in accord with professional educators, acting through democratically elected school board members. She suggests that charter schools, over which local residents have little if any control, would be completely free to flourish (or not!) and to replace democratically run local schools….

“So the non-elected chancellor and the current governor believe local control of education has failed. The great experiment is dead. What will take its place is a technocratic process so complex that it is almost impossible for parents, residents and educators to understand — much less embrace.”

Beth Dimino, an eighth grade science teacher in the Comsewogue district on Long Island in Néw York, will not administer the Common Core tests this spring. Her superintendent, Dr. Joseph Rella, supports her. For their act of courage, I name both to the honor roll.

The Long Island Press reports:

“More than 20,000 LI school children refused to take the state tests last April. No teacher, however, has gone so far as Dimino to publicly voice his/her intention to refuse to even proctor the exams. She tells the Press her unprecedented decision is simply a matter of conscience, and spelled out as much in a recent letter to Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, who’s also gone on record as a staunch Common Core dissident.

“I find myself at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education,” she writes. “I can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children.

“I will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking,” continues her letter. “I can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a state-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. I have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.”

This is a startling blog post that has been going viral. It was written by Michael Lambert of the Gloversville Teachers Association. It warns that Governor Andrew Cuomo and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch are together planning changes that would destroy public education in New York and end the careers of many teachers who ran afoul of the state’s evaluation requirements. Those evaluation requirements are based on value-added-measures that expert Audrey Amrein Beardsley recently described as “idiotic.”


Eric DeCarlo, president of the Scotia-Glenville Teachers Association, adapted it from a letter written by Mike Mosal, president of the Burnt Hills Teachers Association; these teachers work in small districts in upstate New York. The letter has been spread widely among teachers, parents, and community members upstate. Ric and Mike see the handwriting on the wall, and they think it is menacing.


This is part of the letter. It is worth reading the letter in its entirety:


Recently, the Governor’s office and Regents Chancellor Tisch exchanged letters about the future of education in New York. The links to these letters were sent out in an email last week to the Association. You can read the full letters at those links. The conversation between these two can be broken down into the following “reforms” that could be implemented this spring.


1. 40% of teacher evaluation should be tied to growth scores. The local 20% achievement (SLO) should be eliminated.

2. Any teacher deemed “ineffective” on the new 40% state score would be deemed ineffective overall (no matter their scores on the local observation 60%).

3. Any teacher who receives two consecutive ineffective ratings would not be allowed back into the classroom (apparently without a 3020-A hearing or due process. Additionally, all of the current 3020-A hearing officers would be replaced with “state employees”. The Regents seek to replace the last gatekeepers of due process with their own appointees.

4. No student could be scheduled to have an “ineffective” teacher two years in a row (by proposed changes to state education law). This would likely require disclosure of which teachers are “ineffective” for scheduling purposes (and possibly to parents). This is a massive invasion of privacy that was already legislated. Such information is currently not shared outside of the administration and impacted teacher. Parents can only gain this information through a district determined process and, even then, the parents can only know where their student’s teacher falls on the “HEDI” range.

5. Merit pay would be established and, apparently, would not be collectively bargained. Districts would be empowered to “design innovative compensation models based on educator performance”. According to Chancellor Tisch’s letter, our Association would not be privy to the process for how this “compensation” would be doled out and what the criteria would be for merit pay.

6. Teachers would be required to wait five years before they could be granted tenure. Additionally, teacher certification tests would become vastly more challenging.

7. Schools who do not meet the Governor and Chancellor Tisch’s performance expectations, would be closed and replaced with “institutions that are up to the task” which would likely be for-profit charter schools. Additionally, Chancellor Tisch is effectively asking the state legislature for unfettered authority to open and close schools based on metrics (state test scores) that she controls. The Regents and the State Education Department can raise or lower cut scores, and therefore “achievement” gains or losses, at a whim. We have seen this over the past two years as the Common Core assessments become integrated into the APPR. This is, without question, unlimited power for Tisch, the Regents, and the enemies of public education. Furthermore, Tisch seeks to uncap the limit on for-profit charter schools.


These changes are not speculative or “what if’s”.  Read the letters linked above, read what NYSUT is saying. This is our FUTURE!!!!


In 2010, all of us (NYSUT included) were caught off guard at the scope and scale of Race to the Top, the Common Core standards, and the APPR law 3012-c. These initiatives completely changed education as we know it. These changes, with very few exceptions, were wholly negative for teachers and bad for children.


Here we are, four years later, with two of the most important figures in state politics and education having an open discussion about how to unequivocally destroy public education in the state of New York. They have become our enemies and our students enemies. They are brash, unencumbered, and openly declaring war on our profession. They seek to eliminate collective bargaining’s impact in the areas of evaluation. They ignore mandatory subjects of negotiation, like compensation. They have so little respect for teachers, and the institutions that represent us, that they openly write about changing due process tenure. This would have been unthinkable five years ago. They do not care about what’s best for kids, teachers, or schools; only headlines and perception. There is no subterfuge here. Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Tisch seek to end public education as we know it. They want to break the back of NYSUT. They want to make our loca irrelevant. If we do not act now, all will be lost.


Simply put, we are at war!


I say to you now, we must become part of the solution. We must take up this cause as we never have before. We cannot be blind to what is about to occur in this state budget cycle.

New York State Allies for Public Education has issued a request for an independent investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his efforts to take control of education in the state.


They issued a press release with this statement (the links are in the statement):

More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –

New Yorkers Call for an Immediate Independent Investigation of Governor Cuomo
for Unconstitutional Interference in Education Policy &
Violations of NY State Public Officer Ethics Law
Governor Andrew Cuomo will address New Yorkers today in his State of the State address which will reveal his education reform agenda, an agenda which amounts to an unconstitutional attempt to seize power and interfere with education policy in New York State.

New Yorkers across the state are rising up to show their dissatisfaction with the Governor’s misguided education agenda, including NYSAPE’s advocacy campaign that generated over a quarter of a million letters to Albany.
In the months leading up to today’s address, Cuomo has made it clear his agenda, and that of his backers, is to assume control of education in New York, going so far as to call local control of democratically governed schools a “monopoly” that must be broken up. The governor has also vowed to expand the growth of privately owned and operated charter schools, schools that are not beholden to public oversight.
In response, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) calls for an independent investigation of Cuomo’s interference with education policy, violations of NYS Public Officer Ethics Law, and failure to uphold his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the State of New York.
Governor Does Not Have Oversight of Education Under NYS Constitution: Attempts to Direct Education Agenda Tied to Budget is Unconstitutional
For over two hundred years, the New York State Constitution has ensured a very healthy separation of powers. In New York, a governor controls the majority of state agencies, and as a check and balance, requires the Senate to approve any leaders the governor seeks to appoint. Our predecessors, in their wisdom, drafted a NYS Constitution that explicitly put education under the control of a board and branch of government most representative of the people: the Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the NYS Legislature. As a check and balance, the Legislature can increase or reduce the power of the Regents.
“The separation of power for education in the New York State Constitution was done to ensure that the agenda of a handful of individuals did not wreak havoc over the education of the children by allowing political agendas to play out in classrooms over the outcries of parents,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founder.
Any efforts to direct education policy in the Governor’s proposed budget is a refusal to uphold the NYS Constitution and the oath of office of governor.
Violation of Public Officer Ethics Laws: Contributions from Backers and Cozy Relationships with Business Interests Create Conflicts of Interest and the Appearance of Conflicts
NYSAPE contends that by accepting contributions linked to charter school legislation and maintaining cozy relationships with education technology business interests, the Governor has created both conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts, violations of the public trust and ethics laws.
Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder said, “After Governor Cuomo received a sizable donation from a well known charter school backer and former hedge fund manager on March 4, and the very same day the governor spoke at a pro-charter rally in Albany, parents were suspicious. Our suspicions were borne out when by the end of the month the Governor had pushed through a bill giving charter schools in New York City some of the strongest protections in the country. Our Governor has clearly aligned himself with those who seek to use their wealth and influence to privatize public education in New York State.” Deutermann went on to say, “This is not the only example of Governor Cuomo’s blatant disregard for New York State’s Public Officer Law and Code of Ethics, which contain several clauses that prohibit conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflict.”
“After proposing a statewide school technology bond this summer, the Governor appointed California resident Eric Schmidt (who also happens to be the Executive Chairman of Google) to one of three advisory positions on the bond. Not surprisingly, the advisory committee’s report indicated that one primary potential use of money from the bond would be to acquire “desktop, laptop, or tablet computers.” (Smart Schools Commission Report) While many point out that the technology purchased with bond proceeds has a far shorter shelf life than the time required to repay the bond, Google, who sells notebook computers to schools throughout New York State, will undoubtedly benefit,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

Parents across the state also recall Andrew Cuomo’s Blue Ribbon Education Commission, a group that ignored calls for parental consent of student data collection. That commission invited a Washington lobbyist that distributes model student data privacy legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This ALEC “model” legislation ignores the rights of parents and does not require parental consent for student data profiling and sharing.
“ALEC’s values are simply not aligned with those of the people of New York, and their lack of support for parental consent for student data profiling is alarming. Even more alarming is the fact that Andrew Cuomo would seek advice from those aligned with ALEC over the advice of parents,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent and Schools of Thought Hudson Valley NY founder.
NYSAPE Calls for Independent Investigation

As a result of Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to interfere with education policy, the conflicts that surround his misguided agenda, and an unconstitutional attempt to direct education policy, NYSAPE calls for an immediate and independent investigation into the education related activities of the governor.

Perdido Street School blogger warns that teachers, their union, and public schools have become the biggest targets for Andrew Cuomo in his second term.

In a preview of his State of the State address today, Cuomolashed out at teachers and public education:

““It probably has been the single greatest failure of the state in many ways,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says reform, including an overhaul of teacher performance reviews and fixing bad schools are at the top of his agenda. And he says simply spending “more money” is not the answer. He says it’s been tried in the past, with little improvement.

“And you know what it’s gotten us?” Cuomo asked. “A larger and larger bureaucracy, and higher salaries for the people who work in the education industry.”

Read the comments on Perdido’s post:

Several comments predict that Cuomo will stumble when he goes after schools and teachers in affluent districts. Parents and community leaders in those districts like their schools and their teachers. They don’t see them as failures.

Ira Shor, a professor at the City University of New York, read that the state has an unexpected surplus of $5 billion. What should be done with this windfall?


He writes:



“Here’s a scary thought: New York State’s politicians suddenly have an extra $5 billion to spend,” began a NY TImes editorial January 15. “Albany’s treasury is fat with the state’s share of fines paid by financial institutions for past misconduct.” The Times’ editors warn against wasting this windfall from crooked banks and insurance companies on “politicians’ pet projects.” With NY’s government long-designated by the Times as one of the most corrupt state governments around, the Times proposes some good places for the feckless politicians to spend the cash. Sadly but not surprisingly, public education does NOT show up on this newspaper’s list for worthy investments of the windfall.


The Times’ good uses for the money include drinking-water and waste-water infrastructure, capital infusion into New York City’s mass transit used by 8.7 million daily, long-overdue road and bridge repairs, and buying up farmland to protect against commercial development, but the great need for higher public education funding is ignored. This is especially outrageous given that NY State was ordered in 2006 by Appellate and Supreme Courts to supplement habitually under-funded NY City schools by several billion dollars a year, following a 13-year lawsuit finally won by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, only to be tossed aside when the State claimed fiscal distress after the Wall St. collapse of 2008.


How could public education use this sudden windfall? Smaller class size for starters, ably argued for years by a hero of public schools, Leonie Haimson. Small classes especially enable close teacher-mentoring important for closing the racial gap. Moreso, the windfall could finance teachers’ aides in every classroom who enhance teaching and learning. The $5 billion could also go for wrap-around social services which our poorest students much need— winter-coats and eyeglasses, as well as school-based nurses, social workers, psychologists, guidance staff, and college counselors. If the windfall was used simply and finally to house our record number of homeless families and children, that too would be a benefit to our public schools where most of these children attend.


Instead, NY Gov. Cuomo has imposed hardships on public schooling, especially on NY City, thanks to a State law compelling the City to finance buildings for all privatized charter schools, in a City where real estate is astronomical. In recent years, the State as well as the City found hundreds of millions to subsidize private sports arenas but not for investing in public education or in homeless housing. The Times should be the first to remind the Governor and the State legislature of these needs and of prejudicial policies against public education. The teachers’ unions should have been already protesting the failure to include education in the windfall agenda.


This dismissal of public education continues the long-term hollowing-out of the public sector, undermining the capacity of our public schools, directly enhancing the position of even weak private charters, which in today’s policy climate are lavishly over-funded and startlingly under-regulated.



With all the moaning about public sector pensions, it’s good to know that one retired educator won’t have to worry about what Governor Cuomo does.

Retired principal Harold Diamond won $326 million, the biggest lottery prize in Néw York history.

“Diamond worked for 39 years in the Monticello School District and was principal at George L. Cook Elementary before he retired in 1995. [His wife] Carol Diamond is a 36-year veteran of the Goshen School District where she taught math at Goshen High School before retiring in 1994.

“Diamond opted to take the cash value, a single lump sum payment totaling $197,456,087. His net check will total $130,676,438 after withholdings. He said his plans for the money include helping family and “giving back to the local community.”

Hopefully, the lucky Mr. Diamond will help his local school districts survive the state’s tax cap, budget cuts, and other financial handicaps.

It is wonderful to see a couple who have devoted their lives to public service hit the jackpot. Millions of other educators are not so lucky and must depend on state and local officials to value public education and their dedicated service to our nation’s children.


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