Teachers Versus Tyrant

Posted by in Commentary, education, Rights

Students and teachers protest outside Brooklyn Technical High School. | Photo Credit: Nowshen Pranthi

Governor Cuomo is holding public school funding hostage — but not if these teachers and students have anything to say about it.

The Synapse

Outside of the largest public high school in the country, Brooklyn Technical High School, teachers and students joined hands Thursday afternoon to unite against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education policies. The protest was part of a day of action organized by the United Federation of Teachers, which has come out strong against Cuomo’s policies.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo made clear what his priorities on education would be. He addressed several issues, from teacher evaluations and tenure to charter schools and education tax credits. On teacher evaluations, Cuomo proposed tying teacher accountability measures further to standardized tests, from 20% of their evaluation up to 50%. Studies have found, however, that standardized test scores are a poor way to measure teachers’ effectiveness, and teachers play only a small role in influencing students’ educational achievement. Cuomo also proposed making it more difficult for teachers to become eligible for tenure and tying teachers’ “merit pay” to their students’ standardized exam scores.

In regards to charter schools (which previous posts on this site have shown to be slightly worse than traditional public schools on average), Governor Cuomo proposed raising the state’s cap on charter schools from 460 to 560, as well as removing New York City’s sub-cap and revisiting charter authority in an effort to allow as many as 250 more charter schools in the city. However, in a move that has pleased the UFT, Cuomo also proposed rules that would require charters to educate the same percentage of harder-to-teach students as traditional public schools (i.e. poor students, English language learners, and special education students).

Governor Cuomo also proposed taking over “poor performing” schools through “turnaround experts” and providing corporations and wealthy individuals with an “education tax credit” to donate to private schools. This tax credit, though, could result in the funneling of tax revenue from public schools to private schools. Cuomo paired the education tax credit with the NY State DREAM Act, which provides college tuition assistance to children of undocumented immigrants.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew has been quick to point out that Governor Cuomo still has yet to personally visit a single public school classroom. These proposals come as state budget negotiations start, with a final budget due April 1st. Cuomo has proposed raising the state education budget by 4.8 percent (or half of what the state Regents board requested) — however, he will only do so on the condition that the state legislature put his education proposals into law.

Holding about $1.1 billion in public school funding hostage while demanding reforms that hurt and delegitimize teachers, promote ineffective charter schools and funnel money to private schools, and only further encourage habitual high-stakes standardized testing is not the action of a second-term Governor — this is the action of a tyrant. Holding students and teachers hostage in exchange for these horrific policies is a move that rivals only that of House of Cards’ Frank Underwood — only this time, it’s real.

Actions like these are taking place throughout the city and the state. The UFT, for example, has organized a social media campaign to #InviteCuomo to visit a public school classroom. It’s actions and campaigns like these by students, teachers, and their unions that are the only chance we have to protect public education from tyrants like Cuomo.

You can call Governor Cuomo’s office and help protect public education by calling 518–474–8390 today.