Education in Politics

I’ve been to a couple of meetings lately regarding the new budget in New York and how it affects students, teachers, and education.  On Tuesday I took part in a discussion about changes to the education law and on Wednesday Pat Fahy and John McDonald discussed why they voted for it.

The new law has changes in teacher evaluations with ratings still based on student performance and observation, however; the results will no longer be on a 100 point scale. “Instead, the results of the student performance measure and the observation measure will each be plotted on a separate matrix and combined, in a manner to be determined by the State Education Department to determine an overall rating.” Because most of the new education law is written this way no one knows what the State Education Department will do to establish its new evaluation system.

Other major education issues included in the budget are the privatization of schools, programmatic contingency of state aid, takeover and restructuring of some urban schools, and a strong push to weaken the educational flexibility teachers have with diverse student populations. This is not only dangerous for teachers it is harmful to the parents and students who are adversely affected by these new laws.

How can classrooms in low income urban schools be compared to classrooms in upper middle-class suburban schools? The classroom is different, the teaching is different, and the students are different. How can the evaluation be the same?

“These so-called solutions don’t even begin to address the problems with our education.” Phil Steck, who voted against the budget, said, “We need to address socioeconomic causes of low performance before blaming teachers.”

Pat Fahy said that it was with heavy heart that she voted for the budget and it would have been easier to vote no. I interrupted her and asked why she voted for the budget if it would have been so easy to vote no. She hesitated for a moment and then said that the assembly worked hard for some gains and if she voted no she would be excluded from further discussions. She was reminded that getting voted out of office would also exclude her from further discussions. I’m not sure if she really heard us when we said that.

There were assembly members who did stand by their word and voted “no” to the budget because they knew representing voters was more important than making deals with other politicians and businessman. Some of the assembly members who support children and education are Phil Steck, James Tedesko, and Steve McLaughlin. Please thank them and support them.

Check the voting record of the politicians in your area regarding education and child centered issues. Don’t just listen to what they say; knowing how they vote on issues is what will keep them honest.