Two Big News Stories

New Regents Chancellor
As expected, Regent Betty Rosa was elected today as the new Regents Chancellor, replacing the outgoing Merryl Tisch. This is great news as Ms. Rosa brings actual classroom experience to the post (in contrast with Ms. Tisch, whose primary qualification was that she is very rich, and so just knows what’s good for everyone else). Ms. Rosa wasted no time in helping define the contrast, telling reporters “If I was a parent and I was not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time.”

As previously noted, the Education Transformation Act seriously limits the power of the Regents in certain areas, and there are still a number of reform minded non-educators on the board (including newly elected Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown, who is a lawyer). But this is nonetheless great news as, by any reasonable measure, Merryl Tisch was a destructive force against public education and Ms. Rosa offers hope that the interests of New York’s students will again be the primary concern of the Regents.

Great Legislative News (with qualifiers)
Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) introduced four bills into the Assembly that would undo much of the damage done by last year’s Education Transformation Act.  If passed, these bills would:

  • Decouple teacher evaluations from test scores and direct the Regents to create a new evaluation system created by a committee of certified New York State teachers.
  • Reduce the role of standardized tests, shorten the tests, and increase transparency.
  • Provide alternative paths to graduation for students who cannot pass Regents exams
  • Repeal the section of the law that allows the state to take over struggling schools (or turn them over to private entities)

Together, these bills are like a wish-list for saving our schools from Cuomo’s anti-public education agenda. The question is, are these bills actually viable, or is this just a political game? It’s not uncommon for bills to be introduced that have no chance of passing just to earn political points for the sponsor. Considering that Kaminsky is running for the seat of convicted Senate Leader Dean Skelos in a special election next month, that may be all this is: an empty ploy to squeeze out a few extra votes in a tight race.

Also, two weeks ago, when we were in Albany meeting with legislators, the message was pretty consistent – the focus is on the GEA and foundation aid, and there won’t be any traction for making changes to education law. Do these bills change the dynamic?  Or is the will just not there among our legislators to do the right thing?

Kaminsky is a Democrat who, like nearly all Democratic Assembly members, voted in favor of last year’s budget. Getting these bills through would mean a whole lot more Democrats would need to be persuaded to go up against the Governor, and the Republicans in the Senate would have to do the same.

That said, the bills are out there now, and this is an election year. With enough pressure it just may be possible to move these bills forward and get our legislators to act in spite of themselves. We’l be keeping an eye on this, and may very well be asking you to start contacting lawmakers.

Stay tuned.

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