Steven Cohen is superintendent of the Shoreham-Wading River
Central School district on Long Island in Néw York. At a time when
others quietly acquiesce, Superintendent Cohen spoke out in
“Newsday.”

He wrote that the schools are being swamped by a
tsunami of untested “reforms,” at the same time that their budgets
are restricted by Governor Cuomo’s 2% tax cap, which voters may
override only by winning 60% of the local vote. Costs don’t stop
rising, so many district will be forced to cut teachers and
essential services to students. He bravely calls out the state
Regents for forcing a “reform agenda” on public schools that may
yet hurt children.

For his courage, insight, and willingness to
speak against an unjust status quo, Steven Cohen is a hero of
public education.

“By Steven Cohen Shoreham-Wading River Central
School District

“Shoreham-Wading River’s greatest challenges in the
2013-14 school year are the same as those of sister districts
throughout Long Island and the rest of NYS. Will we find ways to
preserve, and where possible improve, valued educational programs
without having sufficient resources to cover increasing costs? Will
NYSED’s demands to implement untested — and very controversial —
changes in curriculum standards and assessment, called for in the
Regents Reform Agenda, help or hurt children?

“We do not control increasing pension costs. We have little control over increases in
the cost of medical benefits. We have little control over costs
associated with state mandates. We are bound by the new tax levy
limit. What we do control is the size of our teaching and support
staffs. So if we do not get help to meet increases in pension
costs, health costs and mandate costs, either we must ask our
communities to provide greater resources by a supermajority vote
(while the economy continues to sputter), or we must increase class
size, eliminate valuable programs, or do both. And while we
confront these difficult fiscal problems, we are required to train
new teachers and retrain veteran teachers to instruct students
according to new, untested, curriculum standards, and assess both
students and teachers by methods whose reliability is highly
uncertain.

“Our public schools are being told to do things that no
private schools are forced to do. Private schools have not embraced
the so-called benefits of the Regents Reform Agenda (why not?). An
entire generation of children is being put at risk of receiving a
defective — and perhaps damaging — education should these
untested “reforms” prove to be what many of us fear: false gods.
Will the Regents, many of whom send their own children to private
schools that are not hobbled by insufficient resources, or subject
to their own “reforms,” insist that all children — whether they
learn in public, private or parochial schools — be forced to
benefit from their recommended improvements? “These are the
challenges we face in 2013-14.”