Jan 29th - 3:39 pm
Students First NY, a group supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform efforts, pushed back against Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’s statement this morning that called for an end to the “demonizing” of teachers.
In a statement, the group pointed out that in Yonkers, where Stewart-Cousins represents and lives, city school children are falling behind in math and reading.
“There’s a reason why the teachers’ union has spent $60 million in Albany over the past five years: to get politicians like Andrea Stewart-Cousins to put their interests over the hundreds of thousands of kids victimized by a failing system,” said the group’s Director of Organizing, Tenicka Boyd, in a statement. “In Yonkers, 4 out of 5 students cannot read or do math on grade level — they need a Senator, too. Governor Cuomo’s plan will give our best teachers $20,000 bonuses, will cover tuition to get the best and brightest into our classrooms, and will increase funding for all children. Governor Cuomo is fighting for kids; Senator Stewart-Cousins should too.”
Cumoo’s education policy proposals this year include raising the cap on charter schools by 100, increasing aid to those schools and seeking a more stringent teacher evaluation law along with a delay in granting teacher tenure.
The governor’s $142 billion budget proposal calls for a $1.1 billion increase in education spending, but much of that money is tied to enacting his policy measures.
Stewart-Cousins, along with the state’s teachers unions, have knocked these efforts as being critical of teachers.
Cuomo administration insists they are being anything but critical of teachers in the classroom.
“The Governor is fighting to reform a system that has condemned 250,000 children to failing schools over the last 10 years, while New York has lead the nation in education spending. Teaching is an important and admirable profession, and that’s why we’re seeking to reward the best ones with merit pay and offer a free college education to the best and brightest aspiring teachers. Frankly, the louder special interests scream, the more we know we’re right.”
Updated: Stewart-Cousins responded to the criticism in a statement.
“Personal attacks and political sniping will not solve the deep-rooted problems in New York’s public education system. As a person who went to New York City Public Schools, sent my children to New York Public Schools and taught in New York Public schools, I will continue to stand up for New York’s children and urge common sense reforms that will help all New York students receive the quality education they deserve.”
Jan 23rd - 12:17 pm
The attempt by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to link his education policy changes to increased funding is “criminal” and an attempt to “strong-arm” his agenda through the Legislature, the statewide teachers union president on Friday charged.
New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom knocked Cuomo and his administration for withholding the school aid runs — a line-by-line accounting how much school districts are projected to receive in the budget proposal traditionally released when the spending plan is announced — because much of the $1.1 billion spending increase is tied to the governor’s reforms.
“The governor has declared a war,” Magee said. “He’s declared a war on every single teacher in New York state.”
It’s potentially problematic for school districts considering they have to have their budgets before voters in May; the state’s budget is due March 31.
“It just again tells you the governor doesn’t understand how the school districts work,” she said.
“It’s criminal for the governor to try to strong-arm his agenda through this way,” Magee added.
Cuomo wants lawmakers to enact a package of education reforms including a stronger teacher evaluation law that’s tied to teacher tenure, which would take educators longer to achieve.
The governor backs an increase in the statewide cap for charter schools by 100, as well as an increase in per pupil state assistance for charters. Cuomo’s carrot and stick approach also extends to failing schools and would empower parents to send their children to charters with schools that consistently receive poor marks.
“It’s a smoke and mirrors show on the party of the governor to create a sensational sound bite and turn the spotlight away from the fact that he’s been unable to address the true issue and that’s poverty,” she said.
Complicating matters for the unions this year is the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been a top ally for them at the Capitol.
Magee insisted Silver’s arrest won’t impact their own agenda in Albany.
At the same time, Cuomo backs an education tax credit that’s tied to the DREAM Act, a measure opposed by the teachers unions.
Magee questioned Cuomo’s push for more statistics-based results on education and learning when it comes to evaluations and testing. Cuomo, she said, doesn’t understand how the state’s education system works.
“I don’t think the governor understands,’ she said. “He thinks this is a number, in number out situation. They’re not widgets. It’s not a factory.”
Cuomo himself has had some tough words for the teachers union, saying he wants to break the “public monopoly” of education.
In an interview with The Daily News editorial board, Cuomo said the unions are too concerned with themselves and not students.
“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said told the paper. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.”
Jan 21st - 4:43 pm
Not surprisingly, the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, is not at all thrilled with what Gov. Andrew Cuomo had to say this afternoon about education, releasing a statement from union President Karen Magee that hit inboxes even before the governor got to that portion of his Opportunity Agenda speech that accused him of “intellectually hollow rhetoric that misrepresents the state of teaching and learning.”
Cuomo spent a considerable amount of time laying out the argument for why the reforms he’s calling for are needed, listing a number of dismal data points (low student test scores vs. high teacher performance evaluations, for example, which led the governor to deem the current evaluation system “baloney”).
But NYSUT insisted the governor is misrepresenting the “reality” of public education in New York, which, according to Magee, has “has one of the strongest public education systems in the nation and a professional, highly dedicated teaching force. Gov. Cuomo should be celebrating that excellence.”
“Students, parents and teachers, who know better, aren’t buying this agenda, which everyone knows is driven by the governor’s billionaire hedge-fund friends,” Magee continued. “The truth is, there’s no epidemic of failing schools or bad teachers.”
“There is an epidemic of poverty and under-funding that Albany has failed to adequately address for decades. Nearly 1 million New York schoolchildren — including more than one-third of African-American and Latino students — live in poverty. The state’s systemic failure to provide enough resources for all of its students and to do so equitably — while giving all teachers the tools and support they need — is the real crisis and the one our governor is trying to sweep under the rug.”
Magee didn’t directly address Cuomo’s pledge to provide a significantly larger education funding increase – $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent – instead of the planned $377 million if the Legislature agrees to enact his reform agenda, which includes a teacher evaluation plan based half on student test scores and half on classroom observations by a superior or an independent reviewer.
The governor also wants to change the state’s teacher tenure system to require five years of positive evaluations before tenure protection is granted instead of the current three, and offer highly effective teachers $20,000 bonuses on top of their salaries.
On the charter school front, Cuomo wants to increase the current cap by 100 (up to 560) and make the entire cap statewide, without any regional limitations. He proposed a modest per-pupil funding increase for charters of $75.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who has enjoyed a close relationship with Cuomo in the past, paid the Democratic governor the ultimate insult by comparing him to former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with whom the NYC teachers union often feuded.
“The governor’s speech was warmed-up Bloomberg leftovers – ignore the real problems, blame the teachers for everything that’s wrong, and toss in a few failed schemes like individual merit pay,” Mulgrew said. “I’m inviting the governor to drop the rhetoric of his hedge-fund pals who hate public education and come visit a real New York City public school, where teachers, kids and parents are working to make education a success.”
The Alliance for Quality Education, which receives funding for NYSUT, already put out a statement slamming Cuomo’s education reform agenda, saying it “is slamming the door shut on opportunity for hundreds of thousands of students in every corner of the state.”
“Governor Cuomo has failed to address the educational crisis of our day which is the dramatic inequality for students based on the wealth or poverty of their zip code,” AQE continued. “There is no denying the numbers–the Cuomo policies have increased educational inequality to record setting levels and this budget fails to address inequality.”
“The $1.1 billion proposed increase is half of what the Board of Regents and 83 state legislators have identified as what is needed. That is why on this very day students and parents from eight small cities are suing New York State for the Governor’s failure to fund our schools. No wonder he wants to distract voters by talking about high stakes testing, his flawed teacher evaluation system and privately run charter schools.”
Jan 21st - 2:13 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a multi-pronged education overhaul push that would grow the statewide cap on charter schools, reform the state’s teacher tenure and evaluation system and seek to enhance teacher training and accountability.
The education proposal was part of the governor’s budget address and State of the State, given this afternoon at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.
Cuomo’s education push would take a look at changing the state’s teacher tenure process, which he indicated in a briefing book was outmoded.
Tenure would be awarded to teachers who are “performing at a high level” at rated as either “effective” or “highly effective” for five consecutive years before receiving the designation.
“A teacher who fails to meet this requirement for tenure shall remain probationary until he or she is able to meet this threshold for tenure consideration,” Cuomo’s briefing book states. “In addition, we will clarify that districts retain authority to dismiss probationary teachers at any time for any reason.”
The statewide cap on charter schools, meanwhile, would be increased by 100, up from the current 460 allowed under the cap that’s in place now. Cuomo wants to allow restoring slots used by charters that close, so a new school make take its spot in the pool.
In a nod to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Cuomo backed an extension of mayoral control of city schools.
He added the state “should consider” applications of other mayors who want similar control over their city’s school districts (mayors in Yonkers and Rochester in recent years have sought to exert increased authority over their districts).
At the same time, pre-kindergarten programs would be expanded for high-needs three year olds, a $25 million investment.
Cuomo is supportive of a plan that would create an education tax credit aimed at providing donations to help public and private schools, a measure strongly backed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and state Senate Republicans.
The governor reiterated his support for the Dream Act, which provides state tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.
But the vast majority of Cuomo’s education proposals are aimed at improving failing schools and rewarding teachers deemed effective.
Cuomo has been unsatisfied with the state’s efforts on teacher evaluation measures to date.
The governor vetoed his own bill that would have slowed the impact of the Common Core standards on evaluations, despite having negotiated the bill with the state teachers union. Cuomo at the time said far too many teachers were deemed effective under the current evaluation system.
“It is time to put a real, accurate, and fair teacher evaluation system in place that allows us to differentiate among teachers,” Cuomo’s book states. “We must have a system with integrity that can help school leaders recognize and reward outstanding teachers and identify those who need help to improve.”
Cuomo rolled out a series of policy proposals in recent days, ranging from a two-tiered minimum wage increase ($10.50 everywhere but in New York City, which would be $11.50), as well as a property-tax relief package worth $1.66 billion (starting with $350 million in this budget proposal).
His education agenda, however, was not revealed until today.
Cuomo has been hinting broadly at wanting to make sweeping changes to the state’s education policy since last month, when his operations director, Jim Malatras, sent a letter to the Board of Regents chancellor and education commissioner outlining a series of potential reforms.
The fight over evaluations, tenure and an expansion of charters will likely put Cuomo on a collision course once again with the state’s teachers union, NYSUT, which is already on the air with a roughly $1 million TV ad campaign that calls for the governor to stop playing “politics” with education reform and start focusing on fair distribution of state aid to school districts.
Jan 21st - 7:13 am
From the Morning Memo:
In the days leading up to today’s combined State of the State/budget address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced no fewer than 12 initiatives and leaked out a handful more, aiming to ensure some of his top policy priorities get the coverage he believes they deserve.
There will be a veritable deluge of information released by the Cuomo administration today. Without these strategic announcements, it’s likely some of the governor’s proposals – like, say, the broadband initiative or the juvenile justice piece – would have received just a line here or there in many media reports.
There’s plenty left for the governor to discuss, however. Topping the list: Education reform.
At the NYT notes, Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to overhaul the state’s education system, letting fly his first salvo in the form of a letter from his top aide, Jim Malatras, to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing state Education Commissioner John King back in December.
But Cuomo has kept the details of his plans close to the vest, and is widely expected to make them a main focus of his speech today.
The statewide teachers union, NYSUT, is already on the defensive – and on the airwaves with a close to $1 million TV ad campaign, which has been answered with an ad from StudentsFirstNY, a pro-charter school organization.
And education advocates and their legislative allies (mostly Democrats) are calling for the governor to increase public education aid, noting the gap between high-needs and wealthy districts is growing ever wider.
But Cuomo made clear yesterday that he doesn’t believe throwing more money at the problem is the answer.
“Somewhere along the way, we forgot that the education system and the education program are about the students, not the bureaucracy,” the governor said, echoing a sentiment he has expressed many times before.
Ironically, today is the day oral arguments will be heard in the long-awaited small cities funding lawsuit. The attorney general’s office has tried for six year to get the courts to throw out this suit, the outcome of which – according to the plaintiffs – could impact needy districts across the state.
Aside from funding, there’s a lot of anticipation about what Cuomo will propose regarding charter schools, to which public education advocates say he is overly beholden due to the big money he has received from deep pocketed charter boosters.
As for other education policy initiatives, the DN’s Ken Lovett reports this morning that Cuomo will proposal linking together two proposals that have split the left and the right: The education tax credit and the DREAM Act.
This will be the first time Cuomo has included the DREAM Act, which would help the children of undocumented immigrants pay for college, in his budget – something advocates have long sought.
The DREAM Act died on the Senate floor last session. Senate Republicans are not big fans, and some of their candidates campaigned against the measure this past election cycle.
However, they – and their Democratic member, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder – are big backers of the education tax credit. So much so that, according to one source, the Senate had toyed with the idea of taking up the tax credit legislation at its noon session today – less than two hours before Cuomo is scheduled to deliver his speech.
We’ll have to wait and see on that.
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan recently warned the governor against putting too much policy into his budget, which could set up a prolonged battle with the Legislature.
Of course, there’s a lot more to look for in Cuomo’s speech today. While he did roll out 12 big initiatives, he was a little light on the details on some of them – especially when it comes to where, exactly, their funding will come from.
Also, we have yet to hear much about the governor’s plan to reform the criminal justice system, of which he pledged a “soup to nuts” review in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury decision.
The DN did report this week that Cuomo is considering automatic reviews by the state when grand juries fail to indict in police brutality cases.
The governor has also said he is considering appointing a special prosecutor (instead of DAs) to handle these types of cases. AG Eric Schneiderman has said he should do the honors, but it seems unlikely Cuomo will get on board with that at this moment.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose ongoing rift with the NYPD has caused much consternation, will be in the audience at the Empire State Convention Center today. So, it will be interesting to see how Cuomo handles this controversial issue.
There’s also the question of how, exactly that $5 billion “windfall” from financial settlements over the past year will get carved up. Some of it will be used to pay for the proposals Cuomo has already laid out. The Legislature may or may not be willing to go along with that.
And there’s the question of whose ox will get gored – in other words, what gets cut. Because with all these grandiose plans, something’s got to give.
We don’t have long to wait now. The speech is set to start at 1:30 p.m. And just a reminder for those who intend to attend in person: Don’t forget your coat.
Jan 16th - 8:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
A proposed bill and amendment to the state’s Constitution introduced this week in the state Senate would abolish the Board of Regents and have its powers assumed by the commissioner of education.
The measure, backed by Republican Sen. Tom Libous of Binghamton, would give the governor the authority to nominate the education commissioner — similar to a regular cabinet post — upon the consent of the state Senate.
Essentially, the bill cuts out a very important middle man in setting education policy in the state: The Democratic-led Assembly.
The amendment has been introduced in the Senate before, as have other bills aimed at reducing the influence of the Assembly in appointing the Board of Regents. Not surprisingly, these measures have gained little traction over the years with the large Democratic conference in that chamber.
But the amendment’s introduction this month comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he wants greater influence over how the state carries out education policy.
Cuomo on Thursday in Rochester pledged a “full agenda” of education measures when he gives his State of the State and budget address next Wednesday.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is already digging in on expected proposals that are likely to be aimed at strengthening teacher accountability measures as well as charter schools. Silver also made clear this week he’s opposed to changing how the Board of Regents is appointed.
“They’re elected by the people who are elected by the people of this state,” Silver said this week. “It is something that has existed in this state for a very long time and it sent the message of taking the politics out of education.”
Currently, the Regents are appointed based on the combined votes of the Senate and Assembly. Given the Democratic conference has typically had more than 100 members in recent years, the conference easily outvotes the rest of the 213-seat Legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, naturally, seemed more open in an interview to changing the appointments process.
“Right now, it’s basically Shelly Silver picking the Regents and we think there should be an opportunity for the Senate to be truly part of that process by both houses voting on the confirmations separately so the person who passed the Senate would have to pass the Assembly,” he said.
Jan 15th - 6:44 am
Under fire from Cuomo, who has made clear that education reform will be among his top priorities this session, NYSUT is fighting back.
The state teachers union today is taking the wraps off a new ad campaign – worth close to $1 million – that calls on the governor to “move beyond politics and ensure the state adequately and equitably funds its public schools.”
First reported by the Daily News, followed by an early morning email blast from the union itself, the TV ad will run in Albany and New York City for the six days leading up to Cuomo’s State of the State/budget address next Wednesday.
In that speech, Cuomo is widely expected to continue to target teachers unions, portraying them as a roadblock to his push to improve the state’s public education system.
The 30-second “documentary-style” ad, which can be viewed below, features a narrator reading from a Jan. 5 New York Times editorial that deemed the real “crisis” in education to be the state’s failure to meet its constitutional requirement to adequately fund public schools.
The rift between the have and have-not schools was exposed in the 2006 CFE ruling, in which the state’s highest court ruled that Albany had systematically shortchanged high-needs schools – especially in New York City.
Then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer hammered out a plan to boost school funding for poor districts, eventually adding some $7 billion a year. But thanks to the state’s economic woes, that plan was never fully realized.
Now school funding is again the subject of a lawsuit, and Cuomo is talking – quite loudly – about the need for districts to do more with less, with his administration noting in response to a call from education advocates and the Board of Regents for some $2 billion in additional aid that New York has among the highest per-pupil spending rates in the nation.
NYSUT’s ad comes on the heels of a report from AQE that showed inequity in school funding has grown to record levels during Cuomo’s tenure.
Jan 13th - 3:20 pm
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks greater control over education policy in the state, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said on Tuesday he was opposed to altering how the Board of Regents is appointed to lead the state Department of Education.
“It’s not a matter of the power,” Silver told reporters this afternoon. “They’re elected by the people who are elected by the people of this state. It is something that has existed in this state for a very long time and it sent the message of taking the politics out of education.”
He added, “I don’t see any reason for changing it.”
A top aide to Cuomo last month hinted at a push for greater say over how the Regents are appointed in a letter to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.
Under the current process, the Democratic-led Assembly virtually controls the appointments at the board due to its members being elected by a combined vote of the full Legislature.
Senate Republicans in recent years have sought to change that system by requiring approval from both houses in separate votes.
The Regents votes are key, considering the board appoints the state education commissioner, a post that was vacated at the end of the year by John King.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said in an interview on Monday he would support greater gubernatorial control over education “were appropriate” as well as more influence over its members by his chamber.
Cuomo is expected to call for greater teacher accountability this month in his combined State of the State and budget address on Jan. 21, including an overhaul of how teachers and schools are rated.
Now, both Silver and Skelos are staking out their positions in advance of the unveiling of the 2015-16 budget proposal, which is expected to include a number of changes to the state’s education policy.
A vocal supporter of charter schools, Cuomo is also expected to call for a strengthening of those institutions either through raising the cap or providing more funding.
“Obviously more money for those schools means less money for traditional education,” Silver said.
But perhaps the biggest fight this budget season will be over a perennial issue in education: Money
“One of the things that’s very important we’ve stood out for is resources for all of our schools across the state,” Silver said. “That’s what it’s about — to have the commitment to schools for children to get what they need is very important in this state.”
Jan 13th - 8:07 am
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos signaled he would be supportive of granting Gov. Andrew Cuomo more authority over the state’s education policy making.
In an interview with Time Warner Cable News and NY1, Skelos said he backed the idea of changing the process through which the Board of Regents is appointed — essentially controlled by the Democratic-led Assembly.
“We’ve passed legislation a number of times, I believe it was Senator LaValle’s bills that would change the way Regents were selected,” Skelos said in the interview. “Right now, it’s basically Shelly Silver picking the Regents and we think there should be an opportunity for the Senate to be truly part of that process by both houses voting on the confirmations separately so the person who passed the Senate would have to pass the Assembly.”
In addition to raising the possibility of changing how the Regents are appointed, Cuomo has indicated he wants more power over how the state runs public education, which is currently controlled by the semi-autonomous Department of Education and its commissioner.
“I think we should consider giving the governor more control of education as appropriate,” Skelos said.
Gaining more control over education has been a sought-after goal for several of Cuomo’s predecessors, including Republican George Pataki and Democrat Eliot Spitzer.
Cuomo last month indicated his push for education policy changes in a letter from his state operations director, Jim Malatras, to the Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing Education Commissioner John King.
This year, Cuomo’s office has said he will include several education reform measures in his state budget proposal, due to be released Jan. 21, along with the State of the State address.
On education, Cuomo may have a willing partner with Skelos and his GOP majority in the Senate.
Skelos backed easing or ending the charter school cap — as well as the creation of an education tax credit aimed at parochial schools.
“I think they should be raised or done away with — very supportive of that,” Skelos said of the charter cap. “It affords parents a choice especially in districts where the public education system is failing them and there kids. I also believe the education tax credit should be passed in order for our private schools — Yeshiva, Catholic schools — to be able to survive and provide that choice to the parents also.”
Chase that, however, with Senate Education Chairman John Flanagan’s comments on Capital Tonight this month, warning against any “Draconian” overhaul of the education system.
The state’s teachers union is already gearing up for a major fight this budget season on education issues after Cuomo declared he wanted to end the “public monopoly” on education through a strengthening of charter schools.
With Skelos and Cuomo on the same page, teachers unions will no doubt continue to point to the wealthy backers of charter schools who have contributed heavily to the governor’s re-election campaign as well as independent expenditure campaigns backing Republican Senate candidates last year.
Still, Skelos said the Senate will place mayoral control of New York City schools under “review” even as he sounds supportive of extending mayoral control to Rochester and Yonkers.
“I’m open to it — I can’t say I’m not open to it,” he said. “What we want to see what the experience has been in New York City. That’s up for renewal this year. We want to review that. And upstate, we just want to make sure it doesn’t turn into a patronage mill in some of those cities.”
Jan 8th - 6:59 am
During a CapTon interview last night, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan said state lawmakers are willing to work with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on education reform, but warned the governor not to propose anything too “draconian” when it comes to overhauling the system.
The Long Island Republican declined to say what might constitute going too far in his mind, noting Cuomo has yet to really tip his hand – other than the everything-but-the-kitchen sink letter his administration sent to the outgoing education commissioner and regents chancellor late last year.
“It would be unfair of me to a degree to anticipate or characterize what the governor may do,” Flanagan said. “…Do I think they’re going to look at things like teacher evaluations? Yes. Do I think that we’re going to look at tenure and other issues like that? Yes.”
“Teacher quality, retention, recruitment,” the senator continued. “I saw some comments about protecting poor teachers in the classroom. Nobody has an interest in that, but how you define that and what you do about it…will have a significant effect.”
Flanagan said he wants to wait to see what Cuomo has to say in his State of the State address, which was delayed from yesterday to Jan. 21 due to the death of the governor’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The real test, however, will be what the governor decides to put in his executive budget proposal, which is expected on Jan. 27. And Flanagan said he’s hoping Cuomo doesn’t go overboard when it comes to putting policy changes into his spending plan.
“Nobody has a better bully pulpit than the governor,” the senator said. “…There is nothing preventing the governor from advancing rigorous proposals for our independent review.”
“I would only caution that to lard up the budget with policy proposals, I think, is going to be a little bit problematic. Send over governmental bills, send over departmental bills. That’s probably a cleaner, smoother, more efficient way to run the process.”
Flanagan described the Senate Republicans as “pro-education,” insisting the conference is not necessarily predisposed to charter schools, despite the fact that deep-pocketed charter supporters spent millions to help it re-take control of the chamber this past fall.
“We’re not affiliated with one side versus the other,” Flanagan said. “…To suggest that somehow we’re purely affiliated with one element versus another, I don’t agree with that.”
The senator said there’s “no question” that it will be a “very aggressive” session where education policy is concerned. So, buckle up.