As I listened to your State of the State address on Wednesday I was pleased to hear you announce, with great bravura, that you are taking on a second job as a lobbyist for the students of New York. Thank you for signing on, in your second year as governor, to fully support our public schools. You are right to draw attention to the mismanagement of the State Education Department and a teacher evaluation system that, in your words, doesn’t work. But please don’t assert that the system is in peril because of the exceptional teachers, administrators and support staff who work in our schools. They are dedicated New Yorkers who put kids first every day. As a full-time teacher myself, I have great respect for and confidence in my colleagues, from the custodians who prepare our schools each day right down to the superintendent who balances financial, administrative, and regulatory responsibilities, the later of which is becoming more and more impossible.
Many of the impossible tasks my colleagues face are being fueled by the missteps of the State Education Department. They can’t seem to get their act straight: forcing changes to school calendars, extending elementary exams to nearly three hours, and constantly changing the teacher evaluation system which leaves teachers and principals struggling to hit a moving target. The people of New York realize that the power of our schools lies in local control, the ability of each community to make their own financial, program, and staffing decisions without over-regulation from Albany. Local control of the schools is one of the fundamental differences between New York and other states, where there are often bloated county-wide bureaucracies staffed by people who have never seen the inside of a classroom and, if given the chance, likely could not teach their way out of a paper bag. Increasingly, those educrats are privateers who have never worked with kids, hucksters who sell magic pills (in the form of high-stakes tests) guaranteed to solve society’s ills while they funnel taxpayer money to publishing companies and unregulated charter schools.
The people of New York also realize that very few solutions have ever come out of the State Capitol. If you really want to find solutions to the problems our schools face, you need to get out of Albany. If you truly want a student perspective, I urge you to join us here in Syracuse to take one of the many tests our students will face this spring. Committing to take the test alongside our kids will show the people of New York you understand what their kids are going through. If you take the test, you’ll know the stress a fourth grader faces during a three hour exam. If you take the test, you’ll feel the pressure a teenager feels as they struggle through the algebra regents’. If you take the test, you’ll earn the right to be called the lobbyist for the students. Please consider taking one of the many high-stakes tests alongside our students and publishing your scores.
Thank you for your dedicated service to this state. Like you, my colleagues and I are committed to building a future for New York, one student at a time.
Gregory McCrea (President)
Westhill District Education Assoc.
AFT Local 3115 – Syracuse, NY