By Bob Harris
What is it with our city and state leaders concerning teachers and schools? Previous New York City mayors seem to have hated teachers. Governors in a couple of states have done things to debase teachers and now our governor is doing the same thing. Do these people think that teachers should be obedient, quiet, subservient, docile workers? Does it scare these people that teachers have joined together to form unions and fight for their rights, for their students and to improve the education system? Inspired, strong, hardworking, fighting teachers help their students and inspire them. Every person probably remembers one or more teachers who inspired or helped them.
My fear is that Governor Cuomo and others like him discovered that billions of dollars are spent on education and that business people, hedge fund owners, and Wall Street types have realized that they can cash in on the education business and make money. There was always money to be made in publishing textbooks, selling school supplies, developing, printing, and marking uniform tests and creating school networks. Now, the charter school craze has opened up a whole source of public money to be obtained for private use by people who build charter school organizations.
Groups of all kinds are starting schools using public money. Charter schools have an advantage over the regular private schools since they use public buildings and public money. There are millions to be made in New York State so business people are supporting these Charter schools with contributions while planning to make millions from services they can supply.
The charter schools look good on paper, but they are not playing on a level playing field. Their students score high on tests because they don’t take, or they only take a few, special-needs children, ESL students, disruptive and children from dysfunctional families. Most of these children have so many problems that they can’t function in a regular classroom, or learn easily and pass tests. Without these children, the charter schools look good. These children need so much expensive individualized help that even the regular public schools try to put them in regular large classes to the detriment of all. The charter schools use methods of teaching their children which would not be permitted in the public schools.
Cuomo wants new standardized test scores to make up 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation right now, but there are so many things wrong with this idea. The Common Core tests were given in March this year but will not be returned until September. Who knows where the students will be next September or what grade or students the teachers will be teaching? Reports are that some reading sections given to third graders were also given to fifth graders. Many reading sections had confusing terminology. Sometimes the grading is wrong.
This material only came out last year and it should take at least four or five years for the various grades to learn the vocabulary and the concepts that are being taught by the program. Tests should only be used to help teachers know how much the students know. There are too many variables in a student’s life for all students to do well on a particular test on a particular day.
New immigrants in the public schools have to take the tests when they arrive even if they don’t know English. The charter schools have few if any of these students. ESL teachers fight for their students, so tenure is important to protect them from being fired for speaking out. Tenure gives them a trial-like procedure to address any charges. Some people want to remove tenure. Some teachers feel this is only a way to fire higher-paid teachers.
Now Cuomo wants to grant tax credits for children in nonpublic schools even when our schools need so much help. When will he get it?