Andrew Pallotta: The Senate’s Betrayal Of New York’s Students, Parents And Teachers

Jul 5, 2018

“The state must end its obsession with standardized testing.  Students are suffering.”

“I stand with parents.  I hear their frustration with testing and will do something about it.”

 “I support teachers.  I love teachers.  We will pass a law this session ushering in a fairer evaluation system that doesn’t rely on flawed state tests.”

As president of the state teachers union, I agree with all those sentiments. 

They are the words of Republican state senators who sponsored legislation – Senate bill 8301 -- to reduce standardized testing and decouple Common Core tests from teacher evaluations.

In fact, 55 of the 63 senators – nearly 90 percent of the Senate -- signed on as co-sponsors.  They issued press releases and told their constituents – teachers and parents – that they heard them, and they would act to fix it. 

After all, the Assembly passed the same bill by a 133-1 vote and the governor said he would sign it.

In the waning hours of the 2018 legislative session, however, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan; his entire Republican caucus and five Democrats betrayed their constituents – and New York’s public schools.  

They chose instead to curry favor with the billionaire charter school supporters who fund their campaigns.

They passed a bill on the last day of session tying testing and evaluation reform to the creation of 100 more charter schools, mostly in New York City.    If the Assembly had gone for it, Sen. Flanagan’s bill would have drained more than $375 million away from public schools in your communities and mine to charters that are unaccountable and fail to serve all students equally.

Asked if it Flanagan’s maneuver was a poison pill designed to keep in place onerous standardized tests, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stood strong and offered a one-word response:

“Cyanide.”

I predict Senator Flanagan’s cynical ploy – his poison pill aimed at teachers -- will backfire this Fall.

We will be reminding voters that these senators betrayed students from their hometowns. 

They voted to keep the test pressure on our kids.

We will be reminding parents that these senators betrayed them.  They voted to continue the state’s test-and-punish approach, despite parents’ wishes.

And, they betrayed teachers –members of our union.

Teachers embrace accountability but want to be evaluated fairly.  Instead, the senators voted to continue a broken system that is sucking the joy out of teaching and learning.

Plain and simple, Republican senators said one thing – and did the opposite.

Teachers and parents have an opportunity this Fall to hold our elected senators accountable.

Make no mistake, we will take every opportunity to remind teachers, parents and public school students which senators kept their promises – and which ones voted for more testing and against their own public schools.

They are going to have to answer for this vote.

They’re going to have to answer to why they sold out public school students, parents and teachers and reneged on their promises – all for some campaign contributions from their wealthy donors who support more charters.

Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the more than 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

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