Archives for category: New York

NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education) is the coalition of 50 organizations of parents and educators who have twice led successful opt outs from state testing, with more than 200,000 students refusing the tests for the past two years. They have become a powerhouse in state politics, not with money, but with people power.

NYSAPE issued the following statement:

For Immediate Release: November 17, 2016
More Information Contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – What Does It Mean for NYS Public Education and Our Country?

Considering last week’s historic election and ensuing reports of bullying, harassment, and intimidation, NYSAPE reaffirms its commitment to public schools where all children feel safe, no matter their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, disability, or immigration status. We remain committed to child-centered and equitable public education for all students and maintain that children thrive best in inclusive communities and schools where they feel that they and their families are not only safe, but valued and respected. This vision for inclusive and equitable public schools requires that each of us call out intolerance and injustice and stand with those most affected by the various forms of oppression.

The clear losers in this year’s election were the children. Both presidential candidates failed to make education a focus of their campaigns. As we learn more about the new administration’s agenda for public education, plans to invest heavily in voucher programs and expand charter schools will further defund public schools and lead to further segregation and inequitable educational opportunities. In New York State, private money won out as Republicans heavily backed by the charter industry swept many races. Harmful education laws enacted as part of Governor Cuomo’s Education Transformation Act remain in effect and the threat of digital, “personalized learning”, computerized testing and the ever-increasing amount of personal data being collected loom large.

New York’s historic opt out movement is a clear example of how ordinary citizens can organize and push back against a system which harms children. Now, more than ever, we must continue to push back against harmful education policies and remain vigilant as ESSA, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind, continues to be formalized. We must also stand in solidarity against all policies and laws that undermine basic human dignity and diminish us all.

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx principal and parent said, “To fulfill the ideals of our democracy, we need an inclusive, holistic, and vibrant public school system. Privatization is an act of segregation and continues America’s ugly legacy of separate and unequal. I call on New York State to be a leader in whole mind, whole child, whole community education reform that is human centered, and to greatly reduce our reliance on computer-based pedagogy. Innovation is about nurturing the genius of ALL children by placing great teachers in every school and implementing a dynamic curriculum.”

“The entrenched Republican Senators from Long Island were sent a very clear message. Senate Democrat Todd Kaminsky beat charter reformer backed Chris McGrath by a comfortable margin, while other long held Senate seats that were bought and paid for by corporate reformers won out only by slim margins against virtual unknown Democrats who campaigned through grassroots coalitions with parents, educators, and community members. Two more Senate seats are still too close to call as recounts are being conducted. Parents fighting for public education are all that stand between democracy and those who seek to profit off the backs of our children,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Founder of Long Island Opt Out, NYSAPE and Long Island public school parent.

Eileen Graham, Rochester City public school parent and founder of Black Student Leadership said, “It is extremely important we focus on enhancing student learning in effective ways, not inaccurately judging them through useless exams. As a parent, I’m angry that our “leaders” continue to make decisions that negatively impact our schools and districts. It is an injustice that Rochester is labeled as one of lowest performing districts in New York State based on a flawed testing system; because there are many parents, teachers, staff and community partners working diligently to educate and empower students. I believe the only way we will show our true success is to opt-out!”

“Multi-racial coalitions, made up of unions, elected school boards, and parent groups beat back privatization efforts in the states of Massachusetts and Georgia, proving that big money doesn’t always win. At the same time, the campaign to pack courts with pro-charter judges in the state Washington lost. We will need to replicate these grassroots efforts throughout the country to keep our public schools safe and secure from the hostile takeover by the Trump administration, Wall St. and Ed-tech interests. At the same time, we must work together to ensure that our public schools provide all children with a real opportunity to learn,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

Marla Kilfoyle, BATs Executive Director, Long Island Educator and public school parent, “As an educator and mother the only options I have is to dig in and continue the fight for public education and social justice. Our children are relying on us and watching what we do.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County parent and public school teacher said, “The role of educators and public schools is more important than ever. We will double down on our efforts to create safe and inclusive learning spaces for our students and their families while continuing the fight for equitable and child-centered public education. Until the state and our nation gets it right, this fight is here to stay.”

We will continue to encourage and empower community members to advocate for their children, by opting out of the state tests and focusing on the local level as the expansion of standardized computer learning and testing threatens the whole-child education our children deserve. Parents need to ask their school districts why money and resources are being spent on computerized learning and testing and what research these practices are based in.

​ NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.


– See more at:

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, says that it is time for a clean sweep of the rancorous education problems in New York state. The state has had a massive parent-student opt out of standardized testing based on the Common Core for two straight years; more than 200,000 (or about 20%) of the eligible students did not sit for the tests. There is near unanimity that the rollout of the Common Core under former Commissioner John King (now Secretary of Education) was badly botched. Governor Andrew Cuomo formed a commission that recommended a revision of the Common Core standards to respond to teacher and student complaints.

But as Tampio reports, the “revised” standards are almost identical to the original Common Core. The original errors of the standards for early childhood education remain age-inappropriate, continuing the expectation that kindergarten children will be able to read “emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”

Tampio says it is time for the New York Board of Regents to steer the ship of state. They are in charge. The new chancellor knows that the Common Core is riddled with problems, as are the tests. Tampio says it is time to get a new Commissioner of Education and to dump the Common Core.

A small group of very wealthy financiers is spending at least $13 million to keep the GOP in control of the State Senate in New York. Most of the money is flowing through StudentsFirst, whose goal is to protect and expand privately managed charter schools.

A group of 17 wealthy donors has poured more than $13.4 million into four GOP-leaning super PACs in a bid to influence this year’s state legislative races, a new report claims.

The report from the activist group Hedge Clippers showed that the bulk of the money – about $10.6 million – went to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a super PAC created by the pro-charter school group StudentsFirstNY.

Three other education reform PACs were also recipients of donations from the group of 17, the report found.

Hedge Clippers’ report comes as a super PAC created by the state teacher’s union, Fund For Great Public Schools, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past few weeks to boost Democratic efforts to take control of the state Senate.

“A small group of mega-wealthy donors is trying to sway our elections to protect their personal fortunes, while teachers’ unions are supporting candidates who will enact a progressive agenda for all working people,” said Michael Kink of the Hedge Clippers campaign.

Among the biggest donors were hedge fund managers Daniel Loeb, who gave about $3.2 million to the super PACs, and Paul Singer, who gave about $2.5 million. Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton also gave about $2.4 million.

Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, slammed the Hedge Clippers report.

“A group of civic-minded New Yorkers formed StudentsFirstNY to ensure the needs of students factor into the policy conversation in Albany,” Sedlis said. “These reports are an attempt to intimidate funders so that student interests won’t be represented. Thankfully our funders care too deeply about children to be intimidated.”

We call the billionaires “moguls,” “oligarchs,” and “tycoons,” determined to privatize our public schools and destroy public education. StudentsFirst calls them “civic-minded New Yorkers.” When did Alice Walton move to New York? Aren’t you pleased to know that billionaires will not be “intimidated” by reports that they are trying to undermine our democracy and privatize public education, which they scorn as beneath them and unworthy of their patronage?

The parent leaders of New York state’s powerful Opt Out movement are taking the next step in their campaign to protect their children and their schools: they are supporting challengers to their own state legislators.

The stronghold of the Opt Out movement is Long Island, the counties of Nassau and Suffolk, where about 50% of all children in grades 3-8 refused to take the state tests. As it happens, Long Island is represented by Republicans who strongly support charter schools (but not in their own districts!), high-stakes testing, Common Core, and test-based teacher evaluations.

The parents have had enough!

Test refusal forces have taken an interest in the race for the state’s 5th Senate District, and they’re using the organizing tools that have been effective in driving New York’s test opt-out movement to try to oust longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino.

“We’re using all of our skills that we’ve learned over the last four years and we’re applying that to helping candidates who are going to advocate for us,” Jeanette Deutermann, administrator of Long Island Opt Out and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, told POLITICO New York.

With the help of NYSAPE, an anti-Common Core coalition of parent groups from across the state, last spring more than 21 percent of the state’s approximately 1.1 million eligible third- through eighth-grade students refused to take the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and English language arts exams.

The 5th Senate District, which includes portions of Nassau and Suffolk County, falls in the heart of the test refusal movement.

About 55 percent of public school students in Suffolk County opted out of exams in spring 2016, making the state’s eastern most corner a test refusal hot spot. About 43 percent of students opted out in Nassau County during that period.

Marcellino, who first won his seat in 1995, is the current head of the Senate Education Committee. His opponent, Democrat Jim Gaughran, has turned that position against Marcellino, running a campaign largely focused on education, setting it apart from most other races in the state.

Gaughran, the Suffolk County Water Authority chairman, has hosted listening tours on community education concerns throughout the district. Gaughran is announcing the end of his tour Wednesday, which included 25 events, at least one in each of the 17 public school districts in the Senate district, according to a news release provided to POLITICO New York.

Parents have no money to give, but they are supporting Gaughran with door-to-door campaigning and a social media campaign. They understand now after four years of organizing that they must fight for better leadership in Albany, where decisions affecting their children and their schools are made with no parent input, no evidence, no expertise, no knowledge. Petitions and rallies can be easily ignored. Real change requires better representation.

Read more:

Marla Kilfoyle is a teacher on Long Island and executive director of the BATS.

In this post, she describes the well-funded effort to privatize public education in New York State.

We have lived with it for so many years that it seems to be just one more issue, although it is an issue that the mainstream media completely ignores. It is the “Sound of Silence,” as she says.

She writes:

“Election season is always a difficult time for many educators and education activist. We begin to look at all the campaign donations that fly to politicians from people, and organizations, that seek to destroy public education. It is the same old players emerging here in N.Y.

“The Waltons, The Koch Brothers, StudentsFirstNY funded by Wall Street Hedge Funders like Paul Singer, Dan Loeb, and John Paul Tudor.

“The NYS Senate Republican Committee are HUGE cheerleaders for the charter movement and have received millions for this election cycle from the folks listed above. For the sake of transparency, our Governor, and a smattering of Democrats, are also cheerleaders for charter expansion and the privatization movement.

“I will have to say that NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, is a bigger cheerleader for privatization than John Flanagan, the Republican majority leader in our Senate. He is also a member of ALEC

“The ALEC education agenda is model legislation that travels around the nation when they need to defund schools, close them, and open up unaccountable charters. They support ending public education for a competitive model of education. The problem with a competitive model is that there are always winners and losers. We should have NO losers when it comes to education in this country….

“Republican Carl Marcellino, who is running against Democrat Jim Gaughran, got not one but two, yes two, $142,590 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133) for media. Republican Elaine Phillips, who is running against Democrat Adam Haber, got a $271,950 independent expenditure from StudentsFirstNY (A20133). Anyone who follows the fight to save public education KNOWS that StudentsFirst has been on the frontlines of the attack on public education and public school teachers. They have been the cheerleaders for Common Core, High-Stakes Testing, School Closures, vouchers, choice, and charter expansion. The sad thing is that Marcellino is on the NYS Education Committee. Call me crazy but shouldn’t that mean he should fight for public education NOT privatization? The larger question is – who will Marcellino and Phillips be accountable to when it comes to education policy? We all know the answer to that question. The Money!

“The PAC that is distributing all this money to StudentsFirstNY – New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany is funded by anti-public education billionaires. The other PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, is also supported by billionaires who are anti-public education. This money is being distributed to politicians who will support their destructive agenda for public education in NY.
Bottom line is – we must get to the polls and vote anyone out who takes this money – Republican or Democrat.

“As a public educator, education activist, and mother I will NOT be voting for anyone who takes money from StudentsFirstNY, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany or New Yorkers for Independent Action. Public education is for the public good and we should be funding that equitably, not defunding and destroying it. Public education should not be competitive where you have winners and losers. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and is the great equalizer.

“So, why did I title this piece the sound of silence?

“While the NYS Senate Republican Committee is raking in all this cash from anti-public education billionaires, NOT many of them have said a word about Donald Trump’s behavior. To me, silence means acceptance.

“It’s OK to malign immigrants and it’s OK to malign women….

“Oh, and by the way, the NYS Senate Republican Committee thinks it is OK to pay for and distribute anti-semitic flyers. This is a flyer that the Senate Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber, who is Jewish and running against Republican Elaine Phillips.

“To add insult to injury this was distributed during the week of Yom Kippur.”

Open the link to see the anti-Semitic image that the New York State Republican Committee distributed about Adam Haber. This is the same committee that received millions in contributions from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Adam Haber is running for the New York State Senate on Long Island. He lives in a district with great public schools and supports them. If you live in his district, get out and help him get elected.

The State Senate is sharply divided and currently controlled by Republicans, who pass pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-teacher legislation with frequency. The balance of power is tipped to the Republicans by a small number of “independent Democrats” who regularly caucus with the Republicans. One of those “independent Democrats” ironically is an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who would love to get vouchers or tax credits for religious schools. Governor Cuomo has refused to help his own party gain new members of the State Senate because he is able to use the divided control of the Legislature to rein in the liberal Democrats who control the State Assembly and don’t support the governor’s pro-charter agenda. Cuomo also supports tax credits for religious schools, which wins the loyalty of certain voting blocs (Orthodox Jews and Catholics).

So it is very important for the Senate Republicans to beat back anyone who might threaten their tenuous control, especially a supporter of the public schools attended by 90% of the children in the state.

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee is flush with cash from Wall Street and the usual billionaires who want low taxes and charter schools.

His opponents do not want to take a chance on the possibility that a strong supporter of public schools might disrupt their anti-public school cabal. So what do they do to strike out at Adam Haber? On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, they release anti-Semitic ads against him.

Is this the Trump Effect, a response to his attack on “political correctness?” PC in Trump’s telling, means not making remarks about other people’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, body size, looks, etc. In this Brave New World, bigots are free to express their bigotry.

I learned about this ugly incident from a public school parent in Port Washington on Long Island.

She wrote:

“Adam Haber is a father and school board member in Roslyn, New York. He is running as the Democratic nominee for a seat in the New York State Senate for District #7. During the Yom Kippur holiday period, he was the target of an anti-semitic advertisement on Facebook and Instagram.

“Mr. Haber held a press conference to denounce this anti-semitism

“The ADL responded to the incident against Mr. Haber and also to others against NYS Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Sadly, it took Mr. Haber’s opponent three days to even respond on Facebook to residents who demanded that she denounce the ad. When she finally commented, she did nothing to address the hurt and anger felt by Mr. Haber and other residents. (Comments criticizing her conduct were deleted.) She claims she did not know about the ad yet still has done nothing publicly to insist the ad be removed or to hunt down the perpetrators. Her campaign is being funded by the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee which would not deny it sponsored the ad. She has not renounced them or returned their funds. Her most recent campaign filing shows that Ms. Phillips received $400,000 from the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee. Hence, Ms. Phillips actions speak volumes.

“I believe Mr. Haber is being targeted because he is a pro-public education candidate and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee knows he can’t be bought out by charter school backers. The Real Estate Board of New York is also funding his opponent as well. This was reported by Nick Reisman today, “Filings made public late last week show REBNY is spending in two Long Island districts: the 5th Senate district in Nassau County on behalf of incumbent Carl Marcellino and the 7th Senate district, where Republican Elaine Phillips is defending an open seat being vacated by Jack Martins.”

“A petition has been started calling on the leadership of the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee to apologize. It was written by a young man (educated in our local public schools) who was deeply and rightfully disturbed about this incident.

“Mr. Haber is the product of public education, he serves on a public school board, he comes from a family of public school educators, he is a friend of the opt-out movement. He is committed to protecting student data privacy and providing quality public education for all children. Please help by encouraging people to sign the petition and if they live in State Senate district #7 to vote for Adam Haber. Here is a link to his campaign website

“Here is a link to a Facebook page started on behalf of Mr. Haber by Long Island Public Education Advocates You will see some familiar faces. We are behind Mr. Haber and determined to overcome the dark money and damaging forces which are backing his opponent and seek to destroy public education.”

Brendon Cunningham is the Democratic candidate for State Assembly in District 9, Suffolk County. He is running against an incumbent who is not a friend of public schools or teachers.

Brendon graduated college in 2015. He is currently Deputy Director of Communications for the Town of Babylon. He is a graduate of the Babylon public schools. Both of his parents are public school teachers.

He promises to make education his top priority if elected.

He has the youth, energy, optimism, and knowledge that is needed in Albany.

If you live in his district, I urge you to work for him and vote for him.

P.S. I have it on good authority that his father is a BAT. Another reason to elect Brendan!

Peter Rawitsch teaches first grade. He has been a teacher for 40 years. He was invited to participate in the New York State review of Common Core standards for the early grades.

He deliberated with the group and came away convinced that the standards, however written, will do more harm than good. In this article, he calls for a moratorium on standards for the youngest children.

He thinks that children need a childhood more than they need standards.

Dr. Michael Haynes, the bold and fearless leader of the Patchigue-Medford school district on Long Island in New York State, has called on his fellow superintendents to join him in fighting misguided and harmful “reforms.’

New York School Superintendents: What Side Are You On?

Michael Hynes

Patchogue-Medford School District

“The school reform debate is reaching a super crescendo. The latest wake-up call from the U.S. Department of Education highlights the fact that we are running out of time to the stop the imprudent attempts of reformers to make the case that public schools need to be fixed by them. By them… I mean both educators and businessmen and women who believe they know the answer(s).

“U.S. Secretary of Education’s John King’s latest unchildfriendly (that’s a new word) doubling down on the importance of standardized tests tells me he is unfit for this office. Secretary King is not only bad for students, he is terrible for teachers and principals as well. The man has zero business leading the nation’s public schools. To think the U.S. Department of Education will now look to hold teacher preparation programs (TPPs) accountable for how their teacher graduates perform as teachers merely based on their students’ success on standardized tests… it begs the question, when will the insanity end?

“There is no better time to finally draw a line in the sand and come together as the educational leaders of our school communities and say enough is enough. We are done with the scare tactics. We are done with the threats and we are done with the reformers holding our children and educators hostage.

“Make no mistake: this will trickle down to all 50 State Education Departments and impact our newest and brightest teachers. Sadly, it reinforces the reformers’ notion that standardized test scores are what’s most important because children and adults are merely widgets and numbers. The real numbers reformers care about is the $621 billion (with a b!) per year endeavor they stand to make.

“I challenge our school superintendents to publicly denounce this latest atrocity to our school system by Secretary King. We must stand together and declare enough is enough. Now is time to choose sides.

“Are you on the side of reformers who at every turn want to increase charter schools (at the public schools expense) and myopically over emphasize tests scores and weaken unions? Or are you on the side of public school advocates who fight for equity and opportunities for all students?

“New York Superintendents, let us collectively create a thunderclap response. The Council of School Superintendents should finally do something provocative and proactive by making a public service announcement asking King to step down. Tell our NY U.S. Senators we have a vote of no confidence for John King. That would be a first.

“Let me make this crystal clear to all school reformers out there…socio-economic status is the most relevant determinant of student success in school. The problem is you already know that.”

I just made a contribution to the #EdWalk for CFE, to honor a group of parents, students, and educators who are walking from New York City to Albany to call attention to the legislature’s failure to fund the public schools equitably, as a state court ordered long ago. Please show your support, with any amount: $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford.

A message from Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the BATs, about the #EdWalk for CFE.

10 years ago, parents won a landmark case by proving that the State of New York was failing to provide a basic education to our kids.

A decade later, schools across New York state have still not received the money they are owed. All schools are suffering, with Black, Latino and low-income districts facing the worst inequities.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit was filed in 1993 by New York City parents, alleging severe underfunding of public schools in communities of color and low-income communities. The state’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, rendered its final ruling ordering the state to add billions of funding to city schools.

The governor and legislature at the time provided a statewide solution, committing to infuse $5.5 billion, of classroom operating aid, also known as Foundation Aid, over the course of four years. The state provided two years of this funding, then in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, the aid not only stopped, but the legislature also did hurtful cuts to budgets. Generations of students have gone through school without realizing the full benefits of the CFE since the funding has been inadequate.

After the 2016-17 state budget did not include adequate levels of Foundation Aid, parents and advocates across the state made the decision that we needed to bring a new level of moral urgency to demand that the state stop letting generations of students graduate without realizing their full potential. We decided that it was our time.


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