Monday, September 1, 2014

NYSAPE Governor's Candidate Scorecard; take a look!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  September 1, 2014
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
Governor Cuomo’s Education Positions Aligned to Privatize Public Education
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of more than fifty parent and educator advocacy groups throughout the state, released a scorecard comparing the key education positions of the candidates running for Governor. NYSAPE personally communicated with all the candidates’ campaign teams. NYSAPE is committed to communicating the most accurate information on issues that matter to parents, teachers, and other friends of public education. New Yorkers who care about public education will have a clear choice for the Democratic primary on September 9 and for the general election on November 4.
Governor Cuomo is the only candidate among the five who supports the Common Core standards.  When it comes to the hot-button issue of teacher tenure, Rob Astorino opposes the law as it stands now. Zephyr Teachout, Howie Hawkins, and Randy Credico support teacher tenure.  However, the Governor is noncommittal as his reply was, “Any change to the current law would have to be carefully reviewed". Similarly, the four challengers are opposed to keeping John King as Education Commissioner. The Governor’s response to NYSAPE was, “It is inappropriate to comment on specific individuals in this context”.
The four challengers also oppose APPR, which ties teacher evaluation to student test scores, while the Governor, a prime sponsor of the law which created the system, fully supports it. All candidates support significantly rolling back time spent on standardized testing. However, the Governor claims that the recent legislation banning K-2 testing and capping test prep time will significantly roll back testing. In reality, it does nothing to reduce standardized testing time for 3rd through 8th grade students.
As to education spending, the Governor opposes fully funding Foundation Aid, Rob Astorino is noncommittal and said “it depends on the state’s financials”, while the other three candidates – namely Zephyr Teachout, Randy Credico and Howie Hawkins – all support full funding.  The candidates are similarly polarized when it comes to charter schools. The Governor supports the expansion of charter schools; Astorino who supports charters schools is noncommittal to the expansion, while the other three candidates do not support their expansion.  
Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “Governor Cuomo has failed to listen to parents and he continues to ignore our concerns. Unlike every other candidate, he does not oppose keeping John King as Commissioner, who has disrespected our views when it comes to our opposition to the Common Core and our need to protect our children’s privacy.”
Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Opt Out said, “We must put an end to the test obsession that has hijacked our classrooms. It’s clear from this scorecard that Governor Cuomo, while he claims he supports a significant rollback, his record says otherwise.”
"The governor boasts the passage of four on-time budgets in a row and that he closed the budget gap. Do not be fooled; these claims are self-serving at best. Cuomo siphoned billions of precious dollars away from public education to satisfy cronyism and business interests. We must remember this come September’s Democratic primary election and November’s general election," said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.
“Governor Cuomo used his power in Albany to subsidize charter schools in NYC at the expense of our public schools and against the wishes of our democratically-elected mayor,” said NYC public school parent, Nancy Cauthen. “Our neighborhood public schools are hugely overcrowded, with thousands of students sitting in trailers or on waiting lists for kindergarten. And now city taxpayers will have to provide charter schools space in our public school buildings on demand or pay for their rent in private space,” Cauthen further stated.
“NYSAPE is providing this scorecard because it is imperative that voters in New York understand the positions of each candidate running for Governor. APPR, the teacher evaluation system imposed by the Governor, is harming students and teachers who are unfairly judged by this damaging system,” said Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County principal at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, New York.
"I find it startling that Governor Cuomo won’t commit to supporting teacher tenure, but says that he would have to ‘carefully review’ the law.  It is only because of tenure that teachers have the courage to stand up for their students when student rights are abused,” said Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, special education teacher, and Springville-Griffith Institute CSD Board Member.

Tim Farley, Columbia County public school parent, educator, and member of NYSAPE said, "The current Governor refuses to listen to the concerns of parents and educators from across the state to make major course corrections in his educational policies. We demand an end to high-stakes testing and the flawed APPR system, and we want our children's sensitive data protected once and for all. If he refuses to listen, we will put someone else in office who will."

Friday, August 29, 2014

video: Washington state parents demand RESPECT from Arne Duncan

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has denied NCLB waivers to many states and taken away the waivers from others including Washington, Vermont, and now Oklahoma -- on the basis of their refusing to adopt junk science value-added teacher evaluation systems or the unpiloted, rigid  Common Core. According to Michelle McNeil of EdWeek, nine states now lack NCLB waivers.

This means that every school district in these states must send a letter to parents, saying their child's school is failing.

NCLB was probably the dumbest law in the history of the United States because it mandated that every public school student be at grade level in every school by 2014 -- or else states would face penalties.  NCLB waivers that depend on states adopting the particular evidence-free predilections of Arne Duncan and Bill Gates are even dumber.  

Even the usual supporters of corporate reform, like Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, has urged these states  sue the US Department of Education,  as Duncan has "no constitutional right to do is dream up new mandates out of thin air and make flexibility contingent upon their embrace by supplicant states."

Watch below is the message sent by the parents, students and teachers of S. Kitsap school district in Washington state to Arne Duncan.

Why you need to get involved & bring your family to the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21st

Parents, Grand-Parents, Teachers, and Families-- Please join us for this historic moment.  by Kate Finneran

Without action, climate change will affect our families in some pretty extreme ways.

Here are some reasons why you should attend the People’s Climate March on September 21st:

1. Health: The overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative. Climate change affects the basic needs for good health- clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. A few of the already known impacts may enhance the spread of some diseases. Insect-borne illnesses are spreading, and asthma and allergy season are getting longer. Also children’s lungs are more vulnerable to the smog that is caused by higher temperatures.

2. Food: Agriculture and fisheries are highly dependent on specific climate conditions. Climate change is already affecting the global food supply and could threaten global food security. The rate of increase in crop yields is slowing -- especially in wheat -- raising doubts as to whether food production will keep up with the demand of a growing population. And ocean acidification affects seafood populations.

3. Places we love to play and the animals we love: Climate changes and its impacts  affect nature in a variety of ways. A changing climate is likely to worsen many of the threats to forests, such as pest outbreaks, fires, and drought. Coasts are sensitive to sea level rise, changes in frequency and intensity of storms, increases in precipitation, and warmer ocean temperatures. The oceans absorb CO2 leading to  acidification. Rising acidity means an inhabitable ocean for the creatures that live in it.

4. Immediately after the the People’s Climate March on September 21st, world leaders are coming to New York City for a special summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution-- and we need to support that call with our voices, our feet, and our presence on September 21st.

We are inviting fellow parents and families to stand up for the health and well being of our kids and communities. We’ll join together in an historic march to call on world leaders to take bold, global action on climate and clean energy.

Our goal is to organize tens of thousands of kids, parents, and families to join this peaceful call for global climate solutions. Parents and Grandparents-- Grab the stroller or scooter, and bring your kids! Kids-- bring your parents! Help push our global leaders to build the world our kids to build the world our kids deserve-- one that is powered by energy that is kid safe and climate safe, where our air and water is clean, and where our communities are healthy.

Here’s how you can get more involved:

Teachers! Download our Teachers Toolkit, complete with curriculum based upon Next Generation Science Standards, with a goal of increased climate literacy leading up to the march. Download yours today, or send to an educator you know!

Parents! Sign up to be the School Captain and enter to win $5,000 for your school.


The People’s Climate March is on Sunday, September 21st.
11:30 am at Columbus Circle, there will be a designated Parents, Kids, and Families block.
Kids-- want to save the world? Dress like superheroes and animals!


Feel free to contact Kate Finneran, March Organizer at


Thursday, August 28, 2014

An open letter about class sizes of 35-36 in 2nd grade at PS 85 in Queens

UPDATE:  I heard from Chancellor Fariña this (Friday) afternoon; she writes that an additional 2nd grade class will be opened.  Congrats to the parents -- and especially the 2nd graders at PS 85Q.

Class sizes last year in the early grades have steadily grown and last year were the largest in 15 years.  Unfortunately, the de Blasio administration has done nothing to reverse this damaging trend  -- despite specific promises he made during his campaign  --and refuses to allocate specific funds either from the state or the city to reduce class size.  The UFT contractual limits have also gone unchanged in 40 years -- though a few years ago, the DOE stopped recognizing a "side agreement" to cap class sizes at 28 in grades 1-3.  As a result the number of children in classes 30 or more have ballooned in these grades. Here is a letter from a parent leader I received today.  I fear more such reports once school starts.

Attn: Chancellor Fariña, Class Size Matters, NYC City Council, et. al.

To Whom It May Concern: 
My name is Randi Marshall and I am a parent at PS 85Q in Astoria. I have recently learned that the DOE has decided that our 2nd grade classes should be 36 and 35 students respectively - with no teaching assistant, despite UFT guidelines that say 32 is the absolute limit.

This is completely unacceptable and will set our children up to fail. It will create a chaotic learning environment, where no teacher can truly teach and no student can truly learn.

The principal of PS 85Q was prepared to create a third general education second grade classroom to allow for smaller class sizes; she even selected a new teacher, who has set up her classroom. But just this week, our principal learned that the DOE would not be approving the budget needed for that additional classroom, and that due to arcane and ridiculous rules, the school would not be able to have that additional classroom unless there were a total of 80 general education 2nd grade students (we currently have 71).

So, basically, the DOE is suggesting that officials believe that class size is okay unless it was  as high as 40 (!!!!!!!!!) children in each classroom. Can you imagine teaching 36 or 39 or 40 children in a single classroom with no aide? What child is going to learn in that environment? They don't even have room to write - or hang their coats - or sit on a rug for morning routine. They won't be able to raise their hands to answer a question because the teacher will barely be able to see them. They are seven and eight years old. They deserve better.

New York City has promised for the last SEVEN years to REDUCE class size, under the Contracts for Excellence laws. DOE received funding in exchange for those promises. And now the DOE has asked PS 85Q to hold two classes that are amongst the highest  - if not the highest - it has seen in those same seven years. The Contract for Excellence suggested that the class size goal for 2nd grade by 2011 should be 19.9. That's 20 students - compared with the 36 you are now asking a single teacher at PS 85Q to teach.

This is far from the "appropriate" education our students are promised in New York City.

PS 85Q is a tremendous school. But it can only continue its fabulous work if you don't stand in its way.

We must do better by these children. Please give our principal the opportunity to give these children the appropriate education they deserve. Please allow PS 85Q to open the additional classroom it had been planning - before the school year starts - to continue its amazing educational efforts. Please don't wait - because once these children start their education, you will only disrupt them further if you make the right decision but it is too late. I ask, I beg you in the DOE, the city council and our local District 30 office to make the right decision and do what you can to allow our 2nd grade students to thrive - not fail. And please act quickly.

I look forward to your reply - and this wrong being righted - as quickly as possible.

With my thanks,
Randi Marshall
PS 85Q Parent Association Co-President