While I’m still convinced that the developing coalition of parents and educators committed to the defeat of the corporate education reform movement will triumph in the end, this has been a week to test one’s faith.
In the face of a tripling of the number of parents opting their children out of New York’s high stakes tests, our Regents, some of them newly elected, went and hired a new commissioner with a track record of supporting the tying of student test scores to teacher evaluation, merit pay and school choice, a person proud of her association with the Gates Fund, whose money has heavily influences the growth and development of the corporate attack on public education. Mary Ellen Elia immediate went about her task of trying to sell the same old crap, using a kinder and gentler tone than her predecessor John King.
If Elia’s hiring was not bad enough, my area’s Regent, Roger Tilles, who has been identified with the forces opposing the corporate attempt to destroy the public schools, found himself on the Regents interview committee that dredged Ms. Elia up and was party to the unanimous vote to move her forward and appoint her. I suspect his behavior is part of his maneuvering to become the next chancellor, a goal he has from time to time publically discussed.
To my chagrin, NYSUT our state union, warmly welcomed the new commissioner as did the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten thereby leaving our strong parent partners in the opt out movement wondering about our solidarity with them. Some of our opt out allies were so incensed they exhorted our teachers to seek new leadership for their unions.
This week also saw Long Island’s Senator John Flanagan, elevated to the position of Majority Leader, announced that his legislative priority for the remainder of the session is making the property tax cap permanent and lifting the cap on charter schools. The new Education Committee Chair, my area’s Carl Marcellino, echoed his leader’s goals amid allegations that he is being investigated for double dipping into his state expense account.
In Plainview-Old Bethpage, my own district, this week made clear that our board of education intends to close our very successful Kindergarten Center, thereby doing nothing to improve the education of our children but seriously worsening the working conditions of two thirds of the elementary teacher in our who teach them. The tawdry way in which this decision came to be made, a process devoid of any concern for the thought of the staff affected has brought district morale to a frighteningly low point. Through the eyes of the teachers, their governor has no respect for their work; their legislators pass laws threatening their continuing employment; their Regents and state ed department contrive regulation divorced from the reality of their work-lives; and where one might expect to find support for their efforts – their home district, they are met with contempt for their efforts, their thoughts rejected as not thoughts at all but emotions, emotional women whining because they won’t be able to eat lunch with their friends. The final irony was to have our board president label it all part of a great vision brought to us by our superintendent of schools.
Finally, this was a week that saw the staff starting to talk about creating a pool on how many district administrators will leave us by the end of the year. I wonder how long it will take before someone in authority thinks this flight just might be a sign of something seriously wrong.
Its’ been a hard week.