Archives for category: New York

The NYCLU just won a civil rights case in East Ramapo, New York, where all school board elections were at-large, guaranteeing that every member of the school board was elected by the tightly organized Orthodox Jewish community, whose children do not attend the public schools.

EAST RAMAPO – A federal court today ruled that the East Ramapo Central School District’s at-large method for school board elections denies Black and Latinx residents an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates under the federal Voting Rights Act. Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York ordered the implementation of a ward system and enjoined the district from holding further elections until this system is in place.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and Latham & Watkins LLP brought the lawsuit against the district in November 2017 on behalf of the Spring Valley NAACP and seven Black and Latinx voters. At-large voting in East Ramapo, in which the entire district votes for all nine seats on the board, has enabled the district’s white majority to control the outcome of elections for every seat on the board for well over a decade. The white majority in East Ramapo lives in highly segregated neighborhoods and votes as a political bloc favoring the interests of private schools, which are almost exclusively white. Communities of color, on the other hand, tend to vote cohesively for candidates advocating for the interests of children attending East Ramapo’s public schools, whose student bodies are predominantly black and Latinx. East Ramapo’s minority voters, however, have not seen their candidates of choice win a contested seat since 2007. Plaintiffs have asked the court to institute a ward system for elections, in which voters will choose their representatives based on geographical districts at least some of which will contain a majority of black and Latinx residents.

“Today’s ruling at long last offers Black and Latinx residents of East Ramapo a fair shot at electing school board members who truly represent their interests,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “As this case showed, and the school board leadership was forced to admit at trial, the white private school community has hijacked the board and rigged its elections for years, while East Ramapo’s students of color have paid the price. Judge Seibel’s decision offers the district a path to represent the interests of the entire community fairly.”

“Our goal in this case was first and foremost to ensure the entire community of East Ramapo, not just a small group, received the full protection provided by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” added Claudia Salomon, partner with Latham & Watkins LLP. “The ruling opens the door towards the establishment of a voting system that reflects the voices of all citizens of East Ramapo.”

More than 99 percent of East Ramapo Central School District’s 27,000 private school students are white, while 96 percent of the nearly 8,500 public school students are children of color. During the last decade, the East Ramapo Central School Board has cut more than 500 positions from the public schools, including 200 teachers, as well as all social workers, deans, and elementary school assistant principals. According to a December 2018 State Education Department Report, most of those positions have not been restored.

The Board’s cuts have led to a precipitous decline in school quality. In 2019, only 28 percent of students in grades 3-8 were proficient in English and only 24 percent are proficient in math, compared to 45 percent and 47 percent respectively of students statewide. Once regarded as a great school district, East Ramapo has consistently showed the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates in Rockland County in recent years, and underperformed against statewide schools. East Ramapo’s reputation is so damaged that in 2017, the adjacent Ramapo Central School District changed its name to the Suffern Central School District, distancing itself from its troubled neighbor.

“Judge Seibel’s decision represents a significant improvement for East Ramapo’s students and their families,” said Willie Trotman, President of the Spring Valley NAACP. “Although a majority of board members will still be elected by the district’s white voters, there will finally be an opportunity for people of color to elect candidates who will represent the needs of our communities of color for the first time in over a decade.”

Judge Seibel closed her opinion with a powerful statement that reflected the NAACP’s case: “This ruling may or may not change the way the schools in the District are run. But the purpose of Section 2 is not to produce any particular policy outcome. Rather, it is to ensure that every voter has equal access to the electoral process. For too long, black and Latino voters in the District have been frustrated in that most fundamental and precious endeavor. They, like their white neighbors, are entitled to have their voices heard.”

Attorneys on the case included Perry Grossman and Arthur Eisenberg of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Claudia Salomon, Andrew Clubok, Corey Calabrese and Russell Mangas of Latham & Watkins LLPP.

On May 20, I will ZOOM with Dr. Michael Hynes, the most interesting and inspiring superintendent I know.

Mike Hynes is superintendent of the Port Washington school district on Long Island, In New York.

He is a visionary. His new book—about educational leadership—is Staying Grounded.

He truly believes in whole-child education. He supports the parent opt-out movement. He believes that what matters most is children’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. He is passionate about play, calm, mindfulness.

Mike is my choice for the next state superintendent of New York. What a wild thought! Imagine a major state led. Y a man who knows the harm done by standardized testing! Imagine a state willing to lead, instead of follow.

Join us on Wednesday May 20 at 7:40 pm EST to watch a discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Space is limited to 100. Everyone else can watch a livestream on NPE’s Facebook page.

Andrew Cuomo has a longstanding dislike for teachers and public schools.

He made his disdain clear when he failed to appoint any current New York City educators to his “reimagine education” task force.

Why should he listen to teachers and principals when he can call Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt and other billionaires and CEOs to decide what schools should look like when they reopen?

If there is any consolation to this malign neglect, it is important to remember that Cuomo has no role in setting education policy. That job belongs to the New York State Board of Regents. According to the state constitution, the governor does not appoint either the state commissioner or the Board of Regents.

He is a kibitzer.

The Syracuse, New York, journal has sound advice for Andrew Cuomo: Remote Learning is a stopgap. Parents and students want real teachers and real schools. Stop musing about “reimagining” education. Your musings are unsound. Listen to parents and teachers. Let the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Fepartnent do their job.

The editorial begins:

Parents, teachers and students had barely come to terms with the cancellation of the rest of the school year when Gov. Andrew Cuomo dropped another bomb: Maybe, he mused, going to school in person is simply obsolete in the age of coronavirus.

The reaction from educators and parents was swift and fierce. Aides later walked back the governor’s ambiguous and tone-deaf inference that remote instruction could replace the face-to-face kind, saying it would be a supplement.

It can’t be a replacement. You know this if you are a parent with children learning at home for the past seven weeks, or a teacher trying to instruct those students. We see firsthand much is lost in translation from classroom to computer screen. It may be necessary to use remote learning as a bridge to returning to school full time, or when virus flareups close schools temporarily, but it cannot be permanent.

Kids need to go to school. And they need to go to school this fall, in whatever form the virus permits.

Despite good intentions, we can see that homeschooling is not going well for many students — most of all the ones lacking the technology to keep up, or having to share it among siblings. Special needs students are adrift. We also can feel how much being separated from their peers and mentors in a school community is damaging kids’ social and emotional well-being. They are increasingly sad, unmotivated and glued to one screen or another. Without support from teachers and counselors, stressed-out parents are struggling to keep it together.

The governor also knows that reopening schools and childcare settings are key to getting adults back to work. And yet schools are in the last phase of Cuomo’s four-phase plan to reopen the economy, alongside arts, entertainment and recreation. This is a major disconnect. Concerts and baseball games are not essential (as much as they make life more enjoyable). Education is essential.

We’re with Cuomo’s impulse to take the lessons from the coronavirus to “build back better.” What have we learned about schools? Inequities are magnified. Homes are not always ideal learning environments. Access to computers and high-speed internet varies from neighborhood to neighborhood, district to district and region to region. These are some of the issues New York needs to solve first, before it can lean on remote learning for anything beyond an emergency.

As for Gates and Schmidt, the editorial says, “Proceed with caution.”

When your only tol is a hammer, every problem looks,Ike a nail. When you ask two tech magnates to reinvent education, they have only one strategy: more tech. And the past two months have proved that more tech is not what’s needed.

What’s needed is smaller classes and the resources to meet the needs of children. Perhaps Gates and Schmidt could spare a few billions to solve real problems.

Peter Greene taught high school students in Pennsylvania for 39 years. Now he blogs and writes about education for Forbes, where people in the business world get schooled about education realities.

In this article, he makes clear that a Bill Gates has a horrible record in education policy and should butt out of New York.

Greene points out:

Nobody has expended more money and influence on US education, and yet even by his own standards for success—raising reading and math test scores—Gates has no clear successes. Nor are there signs that he is learning anything from his failures. Reading through years of the annual Bill and Melinda letter, and you find acknowledgement that their latest idea didn’t quite pan out, but the problems are never located within the programs themselves. Teachers didn’t have the right resources or training. The Foundation’s PR work didn’t properly anticipate resistance. After years of failed initiatives, the latest Gates newsletter concludes not that they should examine some of their own assumptions, change their approach, or invite a different set of eyeballs to look over their programs—instead, they should just do what they’re doing, but do it harder. “Swing for the fences.”

Currently the Foundation is focused on factors like curriculum and in particular computer-delivered education. This may seem like just the ticket for a governor who also questioned why his state is still bothering with brick-and-mortar school buildings. But regardless of what you think of the policies and programs that Gates is pushing, it’s important to remember that while he may be great at disruption, he has yet to build anything in the education world that is either lasting or which works the way it was meant to. And he can always walk away, having barely dented his fortune.

It is perfectly obvious that Cuomo’s invited Gates to “reimagine” education in New York because Cuomo’s wants to make distance learning permanent. Parents hate the idea. Students long to be back in school with their friends and teachers. Teachers want to see their students really, not virtually.

Cuomo should back off. He hasn’t talked to parents, students, or teachers, only to Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google.

It’s also important to remember that the Constitution of the State of New York gives the governor zero authority over education. That power belongs to the Board of Regents.

Cuomo should take care of reimagining the economy, getting people back to work, and leave education to the appropriate state and local officials.

Daniel Katz sets Governor Cuomo’s pursuit of “reinventing schools” in perspective. He invited Bill Gates to reimagine schools in post-pandemic New York because he shares Gates’ oft-expressed view that schools are obsolete (a view shared by Betsy DeVos).

Forget the fact that most parents and students are dismayed, bored and frustrated by distance learning. When you call in a tech guy to hsndle your problems, you can expect a tech solution, not a plan that is based on the views of parents, educators, and students.

Cuomo tipped his hand when he said,

“The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms…Why? With all the technology you have?”

Katz writes:

“The implication is obvious: just as the governor has previously derided public education a “monopoly,” he is now suggesting that schooling as a social institution – one that draws students and teachers together to specific times and places – is “old” and in need of a shake up.

“Reinventing” education is a common theme for education reformers and with it comes the common critique that schools today are indistinguishable from schools of previous decades and centuries and, therefore, ripe for creative disruption and competition.”

Just because major institutions are closed does not mean they need to be “reinvented” or “reimagined.” Major museums are closed. We can see some of their collections online. Does that mean that actual museums are no longer necessary?

Broadway and all live performances have been closed? Does the shutdown prove that we no longer need live performances of anything?

Make no mistakes. The vultures are circling the schools, but they will leave empty-handed. Parents will stop them, as they have repeatedly stopped Bill Gates and his wacky ideas based on hunches that turned into fiascos.

When Governor Cuomo got the blowback from parents and educators who were outraged at the idea that he invited Bill Gates (and now Eric Schmidt of Google) to “reinvent” education in the state, he pretended he didn’t say it.

He (or someone on his staff) wrote a message yesterday on his Facebook page:

“Teachers are heroes & nothing could ever replace in-person learning — COVID has reinforced that.

The re-imagine education task force focuses on using technology most effectively while schools are closed & to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are.

This will be done in full partnership with educators and administrators — that’s the only way it could be successful.”

Bringing in Bill Gates only to re-imagine education during the time that schools are closed?

Wait a minute. Blogger and education activist Peter Goodman (who attends every meeting of the state education board, the Board of Regents) reprinted the original announcement by Cuomo’s office:

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:

How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;
How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;
How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;
How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;
How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;
How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and
Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?
The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.

Does this sound as though the Gates’ reinvention is about “only while schools are closed” or is Cuomo asking Gates and his team of “experts” to devise what the state’s schools “look like in the future”?

Does Cuomo think the public is stupid?

Goodman quite rightly reminds us that Cuomo is not in charge of the schools. The Board of Regents are. That’s what the state constitution says; that’s what state law says.

Cuomo should back off and tell Gates to stay in Seattle with his team of “experts.” They have done enough damage to New York State’s schools with their Common Core standards, testing, teacher evaluations, inBloom, etc.

New York parent leaders are all over this deal. Expect a revival of the Opt Out movement if the Gates’ takeover goes forward.

Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced that he has tapped a second billionaires to “reinvent”
education in New York state after the pandemic. According to the New York Post, Cuomo sees distance learning as “the wave of the future,” so who better to enlist as his advisers than Bill Gates and now Eric Schmidt of Google.

Reporter Rebecca C. Lewis of “City and State” just tweeted this report:

Cuomo has announced the third billionaire to lead state efforts amid the coronavirus crisis: former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will be focused on new technology utilization. He joins Michael Bloomberg, who’s doing contact tracing, and Bill Gates, who’s doing education

Neither Bill Gates nor Eric Schmidt is an educator. They made their fortune selling software. Selling stuff to schools does not make you an education expert.

Obviously Cuomo thinks that the future of education is online.

He seems oblivious to the eagerness of parents and students alike to return to real live teachers in real school buildings. Parents want to return to work, students want to see their teachers and their friends, and they want to return to their activities and sports. Teachers want to see their students. No one but Cuomo—and probably Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt—wants remote learning to become permanent.

Please someone tell Governor Cuomo that the state Constitution and laws delegate all authority over education to the Board of Regents, and gives zero authority to him.

The pandemic is turning into a grand opportunity for the foxes to raid the henhouse under cover of darkness. Parents, teachers, and students want a safe and orderly return to real education taught by real teachers in real schools.

Why doesn’t the Governor listen to parents and teachers and students, who will tell him to reinvent schools by fully funding them? They want smaller class sizes, well-maintained facilities, experienced teachers, a well-stocked library with a librarian, programs in the arts, a nurse and social worker and guidance counselor in every school. They don’t want the massive budget cuts that the Governor has in store nor do they want the distance learning that they are currently experiencing to become permanent.

Well, that was fast!

Only minutes after news broke that Governor Cuomo had asked Bill Gates and his foundation to help “reimagine” education in New York, parent groups responded with a loud NO!

Don’t mess with New York parents! Remember, they started the biggest opt-out from state testing in history.

Here is their public letter:

May 5, 2020

To Governor Cuomo:

As educators, parents and school board members, we were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on “reimagining” our schools following the Covid crisis. Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Whether that be the high-handed push by the Gates Foundation for the invalid Common Core standards, unreliable teacher evaluation linked to test scores, or privacy-violating data-collection via the corporation known as inBloom Inc., the education of our children has been repeatedly put at risk by their non-evidence based “solutions”, which were implemented without parent input and despite significant public opposition. As you recall, these policies also sparked a huge opt-out movement across the state, with more than twenty percent of eligible students refusing to take the state exams.

We urge you instead to listen to parents and teachers rather than allow the Gates Foundation to implement their damaging education agenda once again. Since the schools were shut down in mid-March, our understanding of the profound deficiencies of screen-based instruction has only grown. The use of education tech may have its place, but only as an ancillary to in-person learning, not as its replacement. Along with many other parents and educators, we strongly oppose the Gates Foundation to influence the direction of education in the state by expanding the use of ed tech.

Instead, we ask that you fund our schools sufficiently and equitably, to allow for the smaller classes, school counselors, and other critical services that our children will need more than ever before, given the myriad losses they have experienced this year.

Yours sincerely,

New York State Allies for Public Education

Class Size Matters

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Cc: Board of Regents and Acting NYSED Commissioner Shannon Tahoe

Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that he is working with Bill Gates to re-imagine education in New York after the pandemic.

@ZackFinkNews

.@NYGovCuomo says New York State will be working with @gatesfoundation to develop a blueprint to “reimagine education” in New York State in post-COVID19 world.

Obviously Cuomo knows that Gates is one of the richest men in the world.

Obviously he does not know that every education idea promoted by Gates has failed. Think Common Core, which Gates funded singlehandedly, which was adopted by almost every state, and which has shown no results on national tests for a decade.

Think charters, which Gates has zealously funded and promoted. Think Detroit, where half the city’s schools are charters yet Detroit is the nation’s lowest in the NAEP tests.

Think value-added assessment, that is, evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. This has been a massive failure, because test scores are influenced by hone background than by teachers.

Think standardization, and you will find where Gates’ heart lies.

Think anything Gates has funded in education and you will discover a lot of publicity, loud claims of success, but ultimate failure.

Doesn’t New York have a state board of education called the Board of Regents? Isn’t the Board of Regents the state authority on all things related to education? Does Cuomo think the Regents are chopped liver?

Why does Cuomo think he has the power to take control of the state’s education policy when the state constitution excludes him?

New York parents. Wake up. Don’t let Cuomo give your schools and children to Bill Gates.

Let him re-imagine someone else’s schools or go solve international conflicts or find a vaccine for coronavirus.

Education is not his strong suit. It’s the issue where he has consistently failed.

Take care of the pandemic and the economy, Governor Cuomo, and leave the schools to the Board of Regents, local school boards, parents, and educators.

From New York State law:

The University of the State of New York shall be governed and all its corporate powers exercised by a board of regents….” NYS Education Law section 202(1). https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/education-law/edn-sect-202.html

“Subject and in conformity to the constitution and laws of the state, the regents shall exercise legislative functions concerning the educational system of the state, determine its educational policies, and, except, as to the judicial functions of the commissioner of education, establish rules for carrying into effect the laws and policies of the state, relating to education, and the functions, powers, duties and trusts conferred or charged upon the university and the education department.” NYS Education Law section 207.  https://codes.findlaw.com/ny/education-law/edn-sect-207.html