Ulster County defends public education

Dissatisfaction with Cuomo common bond among local educators

Article from Kingston Times about the Ulster County Defends Public Education forum on February 23, 2015

With the refusal to supply school districts with aid runs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s position on educational funding this year is unpopular with many people involved in public education. Cuomo has tied this year’s state funding for public schools to adoption of his “reform” package. Feb. 23’s education forum at the M. Clifford Miller Middle School in Kingston brought together often-disparate groups who seemed to realize that they’re in this together more than they might have previously thought. They all have in common the thought that the governor is trying to coerce them to get what he wants.

Bianca Tanis spoke at the forum.  She is a founding member of NYSAPE, NYS Allies for Public Education, who is co-hosting a forum with KAFE on March 16, 2015.

According to Tanis, the grassroots approach is what that may have the greatest chance of success. Herself a New Paltz parent of an elementary-school student with a learning disability, Tanis said she and her husband brought concerns about how standardized testing might emotionally impact their son to school officials. When that proved unsuccessful, she said, they attempted to move higher and higher up the hierarchy.

“I went down every avenue to every person in power I could for help, and I was told, We recognize it will probably be very traumatic for him, but it’s the law and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Tanis said. “What changed that was the mobilization of parents. It wasn’t lawyers, it wasn’t people in power. It was parents and grassroots activism that changed this. New York State still does not have a legal refusal provision, but it’s my right.”

Locally, groups like Kingston Action for Education (KAFE) are helping push back. Last November, the Ulster County Legislature voted 23-0 for a resolution supporting the discontinuation of common-core implementation until the standards can be evaluated and improved at the state level.

KAFE was very proud to work with Ulster County legislators to help pass this resolution and we are continuing to work to bring about changes in education needed for our children.

Padalino said the district will continue focusing its efforts internally on the academic success of its students, even as its administrators, teachers and parents continue their efforts to have their voices heard by the Cuomo administration. “This might not be a popular thing to say, but if we’re not doing our job we need to be held accountable for that,” Padalino said. “If there’s someone who can do it better, they should do it better. But if we’re doing our job and 100 percent of our kids are walking across that stage and graduating from high school, we’re not going to have those problems.”

Tanis said that her group will continue its push to have parents opt out of standardized tests on behalf of their children. “Focusing on high-stakes testing is hurting public education,” she said. “It narrows the curriculum and students are less engaged in their education. There’s absolutely no evidence or research that correlates increased academic achievement to standardized testing. Most of these reforms, they’re not really based on evidence. There’s nothing that proves that these reforms that governor Cuomo is putting out there will be in any way effective.”

NYSAPE and KAFE are co-hosting a forum about high-stakes testing and public education at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16 at the Kingston Alliance Church at 90 Millers Lane in Kingston.

KAFE Demystifying Testing flyer

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