Three public school teachers and parents signed up for “Camp Philos,” the meeting in the Adirondacks where Governor Cuomo plans to meet next week with other politicians committed to privatizing our nation’s public schools. The three say they were turned away. By limiting attendance at this event to those with deep pockets and to political sympathizers, the sponsors of the event— Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, and Governor Cuomo—have made clear that they do not want to hear the voices of parents and educators. How can the event’s featured panel discussions about “Groundbreaking Approaches to Teacher Preparation” and “Collaborative Models for Changing State and Local Teacher Policies” be fairly addressed without the participation of educators and parents? Who cares more about the children-their own parents or elected officials? Who knows the children best–their own parents or Governor Cuomo? Who knows more about the needs of schools–teachers or elected officials? Would you let Governor Cuomo or any of the other elected officials babysit for your children? Why would you trust them to redesign the nation’s education system? Governor Cuomo never attended public school, never sent his children to public school, and never taught. Exactly what are his qualifications for reforming the nation’s or his own state’s schools?



Bianca Tanis wrote the following report:


We are deeply dismayed by what seems to be a deliberate attempt by the organizers of Camp Philos to exclude members of the teaching profession and public school parents from their retreat. By limiting attendance at this event to those with deep pockets, corporate influence and “insiders,” Democrats for Education Reform, Governor Cuomo and the hedge fund billionaires who contribute to both have made it clear that the voices of those on the front line in education are not invited. How can the event’s featured panel discussions about “Groundbreaking Approaches to Teacher Preparation” and “Collaborative Models for Changing State and Local Teacher Policies” be fairly addressed without the participation of educators? What does Governor Cuomo have to hide?
When Bianca Tanis, a parent and educator and one of the founders of NYS Allies for Public Education went to register on April 17th, she noticed that the online registration was no longer available and the website said to call the event administrator. Although Bianca left 3 messages with the administrator, she never received a call back. Today, April 22nd, She managed to reach Sean Anderson, the Chief of Staff for Democrats for Education Reform. She did not identify herself as an educator. He stated that even though “they are pretty full, there are still openings.” He advised Bianca to email Kate Gavulis as she was handling “the arrangements.” Bianca emailed Kate Gavulis and quickly received a response indicating that there were no openings.
The same day, Bianca spoke with Gail DeBonis Richmond, a retired teacher, who had registered successfully on April 15th and received two confirmation emails. Suddenly, with no explanation, Gail received a refund on April 17th. When she inquired about the refund, Gail was told that they had filled to capacity before she registered. Unlike the organizers of Camp Philos, Gail had engaged in complete transparency and had listed her affiliation as “retired teacher.”
In an article published on April 19th in which Joe Williams, president of Education Reform Now and the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, was asked whether teachers would be attending the retreat. Williams responded that “teacher administrators” would be there. This begs the question, which ones? Will they be educators pre-selected by Teach for America or by Educators for Excellence, corporate reform organizations aligned with DFER’s ideological positions? Will they be charter school administrators, or perhaps John King, the NYS Education Commissioner and a former charter school operator himself?
( You can read the article here:
Three weeks ago, Marla Kilfolyle, a parent and educator, emailed the organizers of Camp Philos to request that they waive the $1,000 fee and allow her to attend. While Marla emailed the organizers in good faith, hoping that they would see the value in including the voice of an experienced educator, she never received any response to her email or request.
The exclusive nature of this meeting makes it clear that contrary to their claims, DFER and the Wall Street financiers who fund the group are not interested in collaboration, but are intent on using their wealth and access to wield disproportionate influence over public education. This is despite the fact that they have no teaching experience and in the main, do not send their children to public schools.
New Yorkers have had enough of secret deals and politicians serving the narrow interests of billionaires. It is time to open up the education debate to include true stakeholders, public school parents and teachers, who know best what is wrong and what is right with our public schools. Camp Philos is an egregious violation of the public trust and of the ideals of public education. The benign image of a rustic, Adirondack retreat to discuss how best to serve public school children belies the sinister nature of this brand of “education reform.”
Gail DeBonis Richmond
Marla Kilfolye
Bianca Tanis