Patricia Fahy, a member of the Néw York State Assembly, tries to explain her vote on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget bill. The worst part of the budget, she knew, was his demand to make 50% of teachers’ evaluations dependent on test scores. If no budget passed, Cuomo could impose his plan by fiat. Democracy, anyone?

The Assembly got the Governor to agree to allow the state Board of Regents to make the final determination on teacher evaluation, although they still must rely on an “independent evaluator” (an unfunded mandate) and test scores. Fahy refers to the Regents as “education professionals.” That is true of some, not all, of the Regents.

Readers in Néw York, how many Regents are “education professionals,” people who have had careers in education? To the credit of the Assembly, they recently elected four new members who are education professionals. In the past, that has not been a requisite. (Several years ago, my name was suggested as a candidate for the Regents. I talked to elected officials in Brooklyn, and they encouraged me to meet with the Speaker of the Assembly, whose word was determinative. Accompanied by an elected official, I was interviewed by Speaker Sheldon Silver’s top assistant. After half an hour of questions, she told me I knew too much to be a Regent. Unbelievable but true.)

From Fahy’s article:


“In the final few days of the budget negotiations, the most contentious part was the teacher evaluations (APPR) linked with excessive testing – an issue which has been debated for the last three out of four years in the legislature. I had and continue to have serious misgivings about this final bill language and have been actively advocating to ensure the most flexible interpretation of the language along with amendments where needed. While the language was troubling and rushed, one positive was delegating the evaluation issue away from the legislature and the Governor to the Board of Regents, who are the appointed education professionals. Despite having strongly opposed some of the previous work of the Regents with regard to testing and implementation of the common core standards, we have a slate of new Regents, who have been given parameters to work within.


“We need to change the conversation about education. We can no longer look at the very people who can help our children – our teachers – as the scapegoats for problems in education. We can no longer continue to value a standardized test that is so flawed parents are more concerned about their children taking it than passing it. We can no longer focus on underperforming schools and expect the teachers and staff to correct every social ill of the community and society. The solution must be multi-pronged and go beyond the school doors.


“I understand the frustration and the concern, I share it, and have already reached out to the Regents and more to begin work to maximize flexibility and seek changes where needed. This omnibus bill was not an easy vote and our work does not end with this vote.”