Fred LeBrun, a columnist for the Albany Times-Union, wrote a terrific column about the power of the parents who opted out.
Without the pressure they exerted, Governor Cuomo would never have appointed a commission to review the Common Core standards and testing.
Without the force of their numbers, the state education department would have proceeded to evaluate teachers by student test scores, despite the research proving its invalidity.
Opt Out parents caused Cuomo’s poll numbers to plummet, and that got his attention. Poll numbers can outweigh hedge fund cash.
Here is part of LeBrun’s perceptive column:
According to the latest Siena poll, education has jumped to the top of the list for what matters most to New Yorkers, ahead of jobs, taxes, and that perennial favorite, governmental corruption.
Granted, education is a wide umbrella covering higher and lower ed, funding, curricula, charter schools, and a lot more, plus the poll indicates the greatest concern for education is held by downstate Democrats.
They’ve got the numbers to dictate the poll. But at the least we can reliably say the poll affirms how important public education consistently remains for upstaters and downstaters alike.
When it’s that important to voters, it’s critical to politicians.
In the brash youth of his governorship, Andrew Cuomo confidently swaggered to war against teachers and the “educational bureaucracy,’’ which it turns out is mostly parents, by trying to impose a cockamamie Common Core system that brutally punished school children and a punitive and grossly unfair teacher evaluation system, all in the name of “reform.”
Washington, in the embrace of billionaire advocates of privatizing public education, applauded.
So did New York hedge-funders promoting charters.
The governor used all his cunning and considerable available resources to get his way, and even beat up the Legislature to become complicit.
Yet he got his ass handed to him. By whom? By the most potent force there is in public education, the public.
Cuomo’s poll numbers fell through the floor. In December, the governor sent up the white flag and sued for peace with a landmark Common Core review commission report that made 21 splendid, common sense recommendations to put New York public education back on track.
In his State of the State this year about all he had to say on the subject was urging the Board of Regents to pass all 21 recommendations.
That’s exactly what the Regents should do, and we have every high hope they will once two new progressive members of the 17-member Regents are appointed by the Legislature, and once the Regents leadership becomes more enlightened and attuned, which is also imminent.
There are several factors behind why the governor lost the war, including a change of heart in Washington, but high among them is the Opt Out movement that last spring kept 220,000 New York pupils from taking the state’s ridiculous standardized tests.
Opt Out has been the most powerful in-your-face, can’t-ignore referendum on the governor’s policies since he took office.
So here’s the irony of Opt Out for the governor, post-truce.
If there is another Opt Out uprising this spring, the popularity fallout will still be the governor’s to reap even though he has been forced to see the light and change course. In the public’s eye he remains the architect of that dismally failed model for public education.
It should come as no surprise that Opt Out is a very real possibility again this year.
That’s because there’s a Grand Canyon between the considerable rhetoric of change we’ve heard and the reality of where we actually stand with altering or eliminating high stakes testing and the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and inappropriate pressures on our youngest citizens.