NYSAPE: Albany Continues to Ignore Parents Ensuring the Opt–Out Movement Will Grow

By | May 29, 2015

F​OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 28, 2015
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553­-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414­-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –​​www.nysape.org

Albany Continues to Ignore Parents Ensuring the Opt­-Out Movement Will Grow

With the secretive appointment of MaryEllen Elia to the post of  NYS Commissioner of Education, the Board of Regents has ensured that the opt-out movement will continue to grow. The Board of Regents blatantly ignored the concerns of parents and entrusted the education of New York State’s three  million children to a vocal proponent of high stakes testing, evaluating teachers based on student test scores, merit pay, and career advancement based on test scores.

Praised by Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush, MaryEllen Elia (former recipient of a 100 million dollar Gates Foundation grant) is the wrong choice for New Yorkers who have become increasingly more opposed to high stakes testing and the Common Core.  Although union leaders and some advocacy groups have inexplicably praised the appointment of the new Commissioner, this  violation of the public trust reaffirms the obligations of  parents to protect the children of New York by refusing harmful high stakes tests.

“It is very disappointing that the selection of Ms. Elia was debated behind closed doors without public knowledge or input.  If the Regents want to repair the lack of confidence in our state education department, they should be listening and partnering with all stakeholders,” stated Chris Cerrone, school board member from Erie County.

Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent concurred, “Given Elia’s history of compromising the rights of students of color and special education students, the hasty decision to hire her is of deep concern. Tuesday’s appointment demonstrates that there should be greater checks and balances between the Regents and the public to assure accountability.”

Rockville Centre high school principal Carol Burris said, “Just last week members of the Board of Regents roundly criticized the new law mandating the increased use of test scores to evaluate teachers, going so far as to call the practice ‘indefensible’.  Yet this week the very same Board of Regents appointed a commissioner of education who openly supports not only high stakes testing but also merit pay and evaluation based on test scores. Clearly the message of opt-out was not heard–parents and rank and file teachers want child-centered, not test-centered schools.”

“Parents and civil rights leaders in the Tampa area were understandably concerned about the  disproportionately high rates of suspension of African American students during MaryEllen Elia’s tenure. It is disturbing that we now have a Commissioner of Education who was not only fired from her last job but who also generated criticism for strict disciplinary policies and racial disparities,“ said Nancy Cauthen, a New York City public school parent and a leader of Change the Stakes.

Bianca Tanis, an Ulster County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “It is a sad day when the leadership of organizations like NYSUT, UFT, and AFT are willing to throw our children under the bus for a seat at the table with a new commissioner who clearly supports the harmful testing policies and practices that Karen Magee, Michael Mulgrew, and Randi Weingarten claim to oppose. Rank and file teachers are appalled by the behavior of the current union leadership.”

Jeanette Deutermann, a Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “The leadership of these organizations no longer represent the teachers in our classrooms that we know and love, the teachers who are willing to stand up for our children.  Parents will continue to lead this movement and urge teachers to demand new union leadership that puts children before politics.”

“We don’t have a communications problem as parents fully understand what is happening in their children’s classroom. Despite a half a million opt-outs & letters, Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo are clearly full steam ahead with their corrupt school privatization agenda at the expense of common sense and amid the  outrage of the public school parents they serve,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

Beth Dimino, Chair of the Stronger Together Caucus, a caucus within NYSUT, said, “It is the hope of ST Caucus that Ms. Elia will reverse her past positions on Common Core, high stakes testing, and teacher evaluations as her positions do not align with those of ST Caucus and those shared by the Board of Regents at their May 18th meeting.”

“During her first school visit, Elia told teachers, ‘Opt-outs are no good for teachers and no good for parents.’ It is concerning that she would make such a judgement prior to reviewing New York State Common Core tests or exploring why the resistance to those tests has been so strong.” said Ruth Quinn, a school board member from Ulster County.

The appointment of MaryEllen Elia represents a concerted effort to diminish the rights and concerns of public school parents. Her appointment ensures that the test refusal movement will grow as NYSAPE members continue to advocate for the elimination of test driven reforms that fly in the face of research and best educational practice.

NYSAPE is a coalition of over 50 grassroots parent and educator organizations across the state.

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