Join the fight to keep public education public.

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Join the fight: http://www.nysape.org/

It seems that part of the reform agenda is choice. I find it interesting that millionaires, Governors, Fed Ed, the John King’s and Alma (Campbell’s given name) Browns of the world, and just about everyone that has never set foot in a classroom to gain any kind of relevant long-term teaching experience, think that Public Schools do not offer enough choices. To address this I am going to borrow from another post of mine to remind people of how Governor Cuomo has gone about defunding education in my home state New York.

First I want to address the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). In the last year of Governor David Patterson’s administration, he passed the GAP elimination in order to balance the state budget. To learn about this please follow the links I have included here:

Click to access GEA_fs2014.pdf

Essentially, what it did was remove a substantial chunk of funding from education to help balance the state budget. It was presented as one year fix. One of Andrew Cuomo’s main campaign promises in his first election was that one of the first actions he would take would be to reinstate that funding to education. In his first term he did not live up to his word…he had four years to rid of the GEA and did not. The truly unfortunate part of this is that the ones suffering most are the children in the state’s most needy districts; those districts have taken the largest financial hit. Governor Cuomo made the conscious decision to starve schools of the funding necessary to meet the needs of all children. All the while keeping many or all educational mandates in place; mandates that were now not funded. This led to cuts upon cuts in districts across the state which made the job of actually educating our children more difficult. He then created the tax cap. To the average voter (those who actually take the time to vote) this sounded great…less taxes. It was a shrewd political move by Andrew, it received public support and furthered his agenda of weakening public education (and any union associated with it…not just teachers’ unions). Again, this led to more cuts upon cuts in districts across the state, which in turn made the job of actually educating our children that much more difficult. Once again mandates were not eased to assist in balancing this further loss of funding.

So how does this affect choice, you may ask? When you get right down to it, educational choice is a matter of simple economics… the greater the money, the more options you have. Think about it; IF education were actually handed over to privateers (as is being blatantly attempted now) who would get the best education? The answer: those with more disposable income…the more money you have the better education you can provide for your children. That is why the big money players want to privatize and charterize! The rich will perpetuate their families’ wealth via higher quality educational choices, and the “99%” can then become cheap labor. By removing a viable Public Education from the masses the few that control the wealth will be able to exert even greater control over the nation’s populace and the nation itself.

Ah, I see it in your eyes….you are wondering where I am going with this.

When schools were fully and completely funded there was choice built into the system. We had differentiated classes through homogeneous groups (ex 3 levels of math at grades 6-8)…it was called “tracking” (not done in every subject area by the way) which became a dirty word in education, but allowed for attention to 3 different levels of skills and abilities as well as differentiation within those groups. We had a regent’s diploma, a local diploma, special education considerations, and a greater investment in trades via vocational instruction and BOCES. Electives and specialized classes were also offered. College level and AP classes, business classes of varying topics, and multiple language choices were all available. ALL of that in our nation’s schools. And who exactly made the choice of which path their child would pursue? The parents had control. Granted those in more affluent neighborhoods had more available, but poorer districts at least had a chance to offer a variety options to their students. Much of the opportunity for children across NY State has vanished as a result of purely political decisions that were not made with the best interest of our children or education as the driving forces behind them. To be blunt through poor policy and decreased funding, opportunity has been taken away from our children and our communities; both of which together are the very lifeblood of a strong, stable, and vibrant democracy.

We the people…there’s that phrase again. WE THE PEOPLE must come together as one; raise our voices in unity; must work together in harmony; unite for a greater good. A greater good not driven by politics and corporate dollars. A greater good driven by compassion and what is right for our children and the generations to follow.

We must take back the public education that is being wrested from our hands by those whose interests only serve themselves and not our children nor this nation as a democracy.

John S.
Educator, concerned citizen, #stopcommoncore activist.