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CEJ Parents React to Gov. Cuomo’s “State of the State”

January 4, 2012
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Coalition for Educational Justice: “As the governor takes up his new commission and focuses on performance, we strongly encourage him to design a platform that improves students’ ability in the world, not ability to take a test.”

Governor Cuomo gave his second State of the State Address in Albany today, outlining a number of goals and initiatives for public education.  His speech followed a year of disappointment for public school parents and students, during which the State added about 350 City schools to its list of “Schools In Need of Improvement” in compliance with the federal “No Child Left Behind Act”, adjusted state scores showed a deepening crisis in our middle and elementary schools, and new figures showed that just one in four high school students graduate prepared for college.

Public school parent Lynn Sanchez of the Coalition for Educational Justice released the following statement in reaction:

We are heartened that Gov. Cuomo used his annual address to draw attention to our state’s public education crisis.  Specifically, we too are concerned about student performance.  After a decade in New York of more testing, narrower curriculums and inadequate education budgets, overall student performance is not improving, and, most troublingly, education quality is shamefully unequal from neighborhood to neighborhood, and between economic statuses and races.  The real test of student performance — college and career readiness — is abysmal.

We strongly disagree, however, with the governor’s assessment that no one is advocating on behalf of students in Albany or that any commission is needed to determine what they want and need.  In fact, tens of thousands of parents and students have directly “lobbied” Albany in just the past year through marches, rallies, press conferences, and by directly appealing to the legislature and Gov. Cuomo’s office.  Our position is clear: “reforms” that focus on testing – instead of a well-rounded, quality education strongly supported by their government – have failed; and the State’s cuts have only deepened the crisis—especially in poorer communities of color.

As the governor takes up his new commission and focuses on performance, we strongly encourage him to design a platform that improves students’ ability in the world, not ability to take a test.  The best way to start is by asking parents and students in the system now how they would improve education quality and effectiveness, and by placing a representative of both parents and students on the new commission.

Poorer districts also need more help to equal the education quality of wealthier districts, and deserve immediate action.  The governor and legislature must listen to the Regents and public education advocates, parents and students clamoring for a common sense change to the education funding formula so that the working class communities disproportionately affected by years of destructive budget cuts can get back on track.

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