After King Announcement, NYSUT Urges Members To Call White House

The New York State United Teachers union on Friday blasted the appointment of former Education Commissioner John King to become the acting secretary of education and urged its members to call the White House to “express their displeasure.”

NYSUT had never been big fans of King to begin with, having passed a vote of no-confidence in his tenure as commissioner, including knocking the roll out of the Common Core education standards, which education observers and elected officials had said was was flawed.

“New York State United Teachers is disappointed in John King’s appointment as acting U.S. Secretary of Education,” the union umbrella organization said in a statement. “NYSUT has always considered John King an ideologue with whom we disagreed sharply on many issues during his tenure as the state’s Education Department commissioner. Just last year, our members delivered a vote of no confidence against him and called for his resignation. NYSUT urges its members to call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 — as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments at 202-456-1111 — to express their displeasure in John King’s appointment.”

King left New York at the end of last year to become a special advisor to Arne Duncan, the education secretary who he will replace on an acting basis.

John King To Become Acting U.S. Education Secretary

john kingPresident Obama will tap former New York Education Commissioner John King to become the acting secretary of education, replacing Arne Duncan, who is stepping down at the end of the year.

King, a Brooklyn native, was the youngest education commissioner in New York history, having been appointed to the post at the age of 36 in 2011 by the Board of Regents.

King’s background is in leading charter school organizations and was the co-founder and co-director of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School.

His tenure at the Department of Education was a rocky one: The roll out of the controversial Common Core education standards was criticized by both parents and the state’s teachers unions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also was critical of the Department of Education’s handling of the implementation of the standards.

King left for the Obama administration at the end of 2014 to serve as a special advisor to Duncan. More >

Diane Ravitch: Where Are The Opt-Out Supporters?

testsDiane Ravitch, an influential education researcher and Common Core critic, is criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest efforts to overhaul the controversial education standards.

In a blog post, Ravitch questions why Cuomo did not include any proponents of test opt outs on the panel, which is being led by former Citigroup and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons and includes Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

“Does anyone seriously believe that this commission has the expertise or the time to do what they are supposed to do?” Ravitch wrote on her blog. “Can anyone explain why there is no one on the commission to speak for the parents who opted their children out of the state testing?”

In a separate post, Ravitch writes, “Leaders of the Opt Out movement are disgusted by Governor Cuomo’s appointment of a commission that ignores parents of the 220,000 children who opted out of state testing.”

The Department of Education in August estimated that 20 percent of students opted out of the April round of state testing in English-Language Arts and math.

Cuomo indicated to reporters he was sympathetic to the concerns of parents who chose to not have their children take the tests, saying it was their choice.

Campbell Brown And NYSUT Tangle Over Education In Bolton Landing

campbellbrownFormer CNN anchor-turned-education reformer Campbell Brown wasn’t dissuaded by the scores of protesters who showed up to demonstrate against her appearance at the state Business Council’s annual meeting on Wednesday night in Bolton Landing.

Indeed, she seemed to thrive on it.

“I am raising questions. I think they are legitimate questions about why we have laws on the books that protect teachers who have hurt children,” she told TWC News producer Dan Clark in an interview. “I think that’s wrong. I think something has to change. I wish they would engage, instead of trying to shut down questions.”

Brown has drawn the ire of New York State United Teachers and their affiliated group, the Alliance for Quality Education, for pushing for enhancing charter schools in New York and nationally as well as efforts aimed at weakening teacher tenure.

“We believe education first and foremost should be about kids,” Brown said in her remarks to the Business Council. “Who thought that would be a controversial view in the first place? But it made us part of the fight.”
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NYSUT And AQE To Protest By Land, Sea And Air

testsThe New York State United Teachers union and their allies at the Alliance for Quality Education plan this afternoon a multi-stage protest for education reform advocate Campbell Brown’s appearance at the state Business Council’s annual meeting.

Brown, a former CNN anchor who will keynote the organization’s reception this evening at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, is an outspoken supporter of charter schools and critic of teachers unions.

NYSUT and AQE plan to protest Brown’s appearance “by land, air and water” according to an advisory the groups released on Wednesday morning.

Protesters will be in boats on Lake George as well as outside of the area where Brown is speaking at the Sagamore. They’ve also rented a plane with a banner expressing disapproval. More >

Report: Property Tax Revenue Takes Up Increasing Share Of School Funding

moneyThe local share of a school district’s funding over the last decade has grown by 4 percent — mostly in the form of property tax revenue.

Meanwhile, the state and federal share during over the last 10 years has declined by 2 percent each, according to the findings of a report released Monday by the New York State Association of School Business Officials.

The report comes more than two months after state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to re-approve the state’s cap on local property tax increases, but also after a state budget that boosted school aid by $1.3 billion.

At the same time, most school districts in the four years the cap has been in effect have budgeted under the limit. More >

SUNY’s Diversity Policy Provides Greater Range Of Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Options

Students at SUNY campuses across the statement will be able to select from a range of sexual and gender identities, according to a new diversity policy announced on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Students can now voluntarily list their sexual orientation from a broader range, including straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, questioning or unsure.

A similar guideline has been devised for gender identity, with students being to select from man, woman, trans man, trans woman, genderqueer/gender-fluid, questioning or unsure.

In both instances, students may write in a gender identity or sexual orientation if it isn’t listed.

“New York has a long and proud history of embracing diversity, and our world-class SUNY system is no exception,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With this new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, we are once again sending a strong message that the Empire State is a national leader and a beacon of inclusion for all students.”

The updated policy is in line with what a number of college campuses across the country have released in recent years when it comes to broadening categories for students. More >

Hochul: Common Core Standards Could Be ‘Modified’

hochulGov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest effort to examine Common Core isn’t an effort to pull the state away from the controversial education standards, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a radio interview on Wednesday.

Hochul told WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom this morning that Cuomo “agrees with the goal” of the standards, but reiterated that the role out of standards was flawed.

“He is going to convene a commission of people who have studied this and thought about it, but also parents and educators to get their opinion,” she said in the interview.

Cuomo last week signaled plans to undertake yet another effort to review the Common Core standards through a commission that is due to release its results by January in time for the State of the State address. More >

Flanagan Urges Caution In East Ramapo Oversight

FlanaganerAs the state Education Department moves to oversee the East Ramapo school district, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday urged caution in taking away local control of the district.

“When we move in any way shape or form to usurp local control, we have to be extraordinarily judicious,” Flanagan said. “I’m not suggesting for a moment there aren’t extraordinarily acute issues on that district, because there are.”

He added: “It’s important to recognize that in the state of New York where we’ve directly intervened in school districts, our track record isn’t very good.”

The comments are the first Flanagan has made since the state Department of Education in August moved to form an oversight panel of the district after the Board of Education in East Ramapo has been sharply criticized for mismanagement. More >

Cuomo: Review of Common Core On Tap – Again (Updated)

While continuing to express conceptual support for the “goal” of the Common Core standards, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today said he sympathizes the frustration of parents who have opted their kids out of standardized tests in growing numbers and believes the time has come for a “comprehensive review” of both the exams and the curriculum on which they are based.

“We must have standards for New York’s students, but those standards will only work if people – especially parents – have faith in them and in their ability to educate our children,” Cuomo said in a statement released this afternoon. “The current Common Core program does not do that. It must.”

“The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed,” the governor continued. “To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.”

Cuomo said he will ask a representative group made up of members of his past education reform commission, education experts, teachers, parents, new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and state lawmakers to conduct this review and report back to him with recommendations in time for his State of the State address in January.

The governor reiterated that he believes SED’s implementation of the Common Core has been “deeply flawed” – a position of which he becomes more convinced as time goes on. He noted that Elia (whom he did not mention specifically by name) “inherited” this problem, but also said that when it comes to her recent comments about the opt-out movement (which she has walked back somewhat), he sympathizes with the “frustration of the parents.”

In a round of interviews earlier this week – including on Capital Tonight – Elia said that her comments were perhaps misinterpreted as a threat, which she did not intend. She insisted that she was merely trying to provide answers and guidance to superintendents who asked how to handle the fallout from the unusually high opt-out rate – about 20 percent – in the late round of English and math exams.

This is a little bit of a tightrope for Cuomo, who doubled down on the teacher performance evaluation system and education reform during the last round of budget negotiations, insisting on a system that critics say is even more reliant on test results rather than less.

It also, ironically, puts him sort of on the same page as the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, with which he has not seen eye-to-eye on very much. The union has been actively fanning the flames of the parent-led opt-out movement, in hopes of undermining the evaluation system. NYSUT officials and their allies on both sides of the political fence often repeat the “we’re not against standards, just against the implementation” mantra when discussing the Common Core.

UPDATE: It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time the governor has asked a panel of experts and legislators to review the Common Core situation and get back to him with reform suggestions. In fact, his comments on this topic during his 2014-15 budget address sound a lot like the statement he released today.

The members of the 2014 Common Core implementation panel included then-Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan, who is now the majority leader. Critics questioned the necessity of this panel, saying there were already plenty of proposals on how to fix the Common Core problem.

That panel issued a preliminary report in March – about a month or so after the governor announced its membership, and after just two meetings. The preliminary recommendations had nearly all already been adopted by the Board of Regents or proposed by various state lawmakers. A final report was not forthcoming.