Trump Selects DeVos for DOE

Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary
Prior to (and immediately after) the election, most of the press reported that there was a big question mark about exactly what direction (and how far) Trump might go in terms of public education.

With his selection of Betsy DeVos, he has made his intentions quite clear, and it doesn’t look very good for the future of public education.

While we derided John King for (among many other things) how little time he actually spent as a teacher, Ms. DeVos has never worked in a school in any capacity. Not only did her children not go to public schools, she herself never spent a day in one. In fact, Ms. DeVos’s only “qualification” for the job is that she is a billionaire who has forcefully advocated for school choice and for “breach[ing] the wall between church and state on education.”

And while we criticized John King (and various politicians on the left) for giving too much support to charter schools, according The New York Times, “It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos.”

For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence.

And remember how we pilloried John King for his tone-deafness and lack of responsiveness to teachers, parents, and, especially, at-risk students? From ThinkProgress:

Teachers have been bringing awareness to the issue of poor funding of Detroit schools in the form of protests. Last January, teachers protested the conditions of public schools and took photos of inedible food, damaged school buildings, and dead rodents and posted them on social media. Since then, there have inspections of schools, which confirmed that many schools were unsafe places for kids.

In the midst of all of these issues, DeVos has pushed for less regulation and oversight of charter schools and stated that public schools are failing children — all without advocating for better state funding of public schools.

To be sure, there are arguments on both sides of the school choice issue (although this essay does a great job of dispelling the myths).  For their part, proponents of charter schools argue that they are fighting to rescue children from failing public schools. But the lie that they are putting children first is completely exposed when they push for less regulation. If you missed John Oliver’s brilliant take-down of the the corruption and fraud resulting from lax charter regulation, it’s worth a look.

It’s also interesting to note that while Ms. DeVos has gotten some support (Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called her an “excellent choice”), even proponents of charter schools have issues with what she’s done. In a NYT Op-Ed piece, Douglas Harris writes “As one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.”

The bottom line is that Trump has chosen a Secretary of Education with no experience in public education, and whose only connection to the education system is turning it over to for-profit operators with little-to-no oversight. Combined with his one major ed-policy proposal (diverting $20B in federal funding to block grants which could be used for private or charter schools) this makes it is clear that those of us who care about the future of public education will have quite a fight on our hands over the next four years.

The Network for Public Education has created a form you can use to tell our Senators to reject Betsy DeVos. You can find it here.


Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th. Please make sure you vote.


If you want to verify that you’re registered, confirm your polling place, or double check which districts you’re in, you can do all of that at this site.

NYSUT has endorsed Anna Throne-Holst for Congress, and we really want to make that endorsement count.  If you’re not familiar with her, take a moment to watch this video.

Click here for the list of NYSUT endorsed candidates.

Don’t Sit This One Out

This election season is certainly generating some strong feelings – including a feeling expressed by many that they’re so fed up, they’re not even going to vote this year. But if you’re one of those people who is thinking about sitting this election out, we have two words for you:


We’ve pointed this out before, but it bears repeating: one of the biggest reasons we’re in this mess (APPR, Tax Cap, Common Core, etc.etc.) is that our elected officials do not take us seriously. And one reason for that is that we don’t fully flex our strength at the ballot box. Not enough of us vote.

Journalists always make reference to the “powerful” teachers union, with the implication that this supposed power comes from huge piles of cash we throw at politicians. But that’s just wrong. Whatever power we have comes not from money (we are far outspent by charter schools and other special interests), but from our numbers. Teachers make up a sizable chunk of the population and our voices deserve to be heard – that is the very definition of democracy. But if we don’t ALL vote then we are not only losing power, we are shirking our responsibility to ourselves, our students, and to public education as an institution.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th. Please make sure you vote. And to truly make the most of this election, here are some things you can do:

NYSUT is asking all members to take a pledge to vote. If you know your NYSUT Member number or have a NYSUT login, please use this link to take the pledge. If you don’t have a NYSUT login or don’t know your member number, you can take the pledge by using this link.

If anyone in your family is over 18 but is not yet registered to vote, it’s not too late; the deadline is October 14th. Registration can be done online by clicking here.

Phone banks are being set up to help get out the vote, and we very much need volunteers. Calls will be made from the Riverhead Teachers Association office on Monday 10/17 and Thursday 10/27. If you can spare even a few minutes on either of those days, please reply to let us know. If you’d like to make calls but neither of those dates work, please let me know that also, as there may be other opportunities.

Rob Verbeck
SWRTA Corresponding Secretary

Revised Common Core Draft

Revised Common Core Standards
Last Wednesday, the State Ed Dept. issued the draft of the revised Common Core Standards. NYSED claims that changes were made to about 60% of the standards. But while many media outlets reported this as being a big deal (Education Department proposes major changes to state’s ELA, math standards -The Buffalo News), others, such as the New York Times, offered a more accurate perspective (Cuomo Called for ‘Reboot’ of School Standards. Officials Propose Tweaks Instead).

You can (and should) see for yourself (Math; ELA), but the majority of changes in math were things like adding sample problems to the wording of the standards, splitting single standards into multiple standards, rearranging sentences or things like (and I’m not making this up) replacing “for example” with “e.g.” to be consistent throughout the document. There were some more significant changes in ELA (such as changing the requirement for “grade level texts” to “a variety of texts,” but quite a few of the revisions were just clarifications and wording changes (e.g. replacing “rules” with “norms”).

And as the media can’t even agree if the revisions were significant, it should be no surprise that there isn’t agreement over whether the revised draft is a positive development.

Again, you should see for yourself.

And what you should also do is give feedback. The pages for both the Math and ELA drafts are arranged by grade level, and under standard document there is a link to a survey. Unlike the original Common Core Survey which was confusing and time consuming, this one should only take a few minutes.


The Suffolk County AHRC is in the final stages of creating a sensory garden at their Shoreham location. To help support this project, SWRTA and the RCFA joined together to donate recycling and waste receptacles. The sensory garden will be open to AHRC residents as well as community members and these receptacles will help to keep it beautiful.

For more details, see the article in The Riverhead News-Review.

Pictured below are Linda Bruno and J. Adreassi of AHRC, RCFA 2nd VP Gary Karlson;  SWRTA President Lucille McKee, and RCFA President Lisa Goulding.


SWRTA Welcomes New Members

Last week, SWRTA welcomed many of our new members with a luncheon as part of their New Teacher Orientation. Pictured below  (not in order) are Susana Vique-Kearney (MS and HS), Nicole Vincent (MS), Caitlin Maher (HS), Samantha Schaaf (Miller Ave), Kathryn Sullivan (Wading River), Edward Storck (HS), Maryann Agius (HS), Sean Gil (MS, Wading River), Erin Jacob (HS), Krista Lohman (Miller Ave), Megan Mathesen (MS), along with SWRTA Officers Mary Hygom, Erin Schmalzle, President Lucille McKee, Rob Verbeck, Ronnie Malave, Leeann Kraus, and Anne DeSimone.

Congratulations and welcome to ALL of our new members.

Teacher Registration: Update

Hope you all are enjoying the first week of Summer vacation. I hate to let school business intrude on that, but I need to share a couple of updates regarding the mandatory registration that goes into effect this year.

As you know, ALL certified teachers in New York State must register with NYSED and renew their registration every five years. (There are also additional requirements relating to PD hours for some teachers. See the full NYSUT fact sheet for more details)

Here’s what’s new:

  • NYSED is still requesting that teachers register during the month of their birthday so the system does not get overwhelmed, but it will let you register at any time.
  • The system was supposed to go live July 1st, but it is open right now if you want to register today. (In theory that could change if the system gets overwhelmed).
  • The deadline for registering is still the end of your birthday month, but NYSUT got NYSED to waive the late fee. All the same, we recommend that you get it done by the deadline.
  • As part of the registration process, you will have to answer seven moral character questions. If you’d like to preview the questions, I’ve posted them here.) You’ll also have to answer a question about whether or not you are responsible for child support.

Finally, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to get to the registration page, so I created a cheat sheet to help you navigate the site.

Rob Verbeck
SWRTA Corresponding Secretary

Congratulations Kerri

Last night, our own Kerri Anderson was elected to the Mt. Sinai Board of Ed, receiving the most votes of the five candidates vying for two positions:

Kerri Anderson (733)
Lynn Jordan (726)
Anthony DiPaola (584)
Michael McGuire (387)
Robert McGrath (220)

Kerri’s victory is not just great news for her and for us, but is another positive indicator of how the tide is changing in favor of teachers and public education. Running as a teacher on a platform that included pushing the district to “enrich its academic programs to ‘meet the needs of all students.’ and advocating additional autonomy and flexibility for teachers,” she garnered nearly twice as many votes as one of her opponents whose goal was to save money, in part by looking at teacher contracts, “a major part of the budget.”

Please join us in congratulating Kerri. She will no doubt serve the Mt. Sinai community with the same dedication, passion, and excellence that she has been providing to our students.