Teachers, Students Blast Cuomo Education Policy

Teachers, Students Blast Cuomo Education Policy

Photo: Public School 64 teachers and students on Thursday rallied after school to protest Gov. Cuomo’s education plan. Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza.

Dozens of Public School 64 students, teachers, support staff, and parents last Thursday afternoon rallied outside the Ozone Park building, blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his education policy.

The demonstration—one of nearly 200 across the city—was part of a “Protect Our Schools” mobilization aimed at Cuomo’s proposed school reforms in this year’s budget.

Toting small signs with messages including “Show us the money,” “Less TESTING More TEACHING,” and “Fair student funding,” they marched briskly around the block a few times, at some points even chanting the very phrases that were blaring from the signs.

“They’re taking away our ability to teach, and placing everything on the tests,” said Melissa Meehan, a PS 64 teacher for the past 22 years.

The exams that Meehan referred to are the English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core tests. The mother of two boys said that the education bureaucracy has taken all that she had learned and understood about teaching and turned it on its head.

“Everything is about test-prep now,” she said, “for tests that are culturally biased and designed to fail.”

At Thursday’s rally, teachers and staff detailed how they feel Cuomo’s policy will ultimately have a profoundly negative effect on students and educators alike.

Under Cuomo’s plan, the United Federation of Teachers union said, the governor has refused to meet the state’s constitutional obligation for funding schools, and continues to withhold the more than $2 billion owed to city public schools under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement.

“Our kids desperately need funding to have equitable opportunities for education,” in a statement.

Additionally, the UFT ripped Cuomo for planning to raise the state cap on charter schools, and “forcing struggling schools in high-poverty areas into receivership, giving private entities an opportunity to take total control of the schools.”

“This blame-and-punish strategy would strip our schools of local control and silence the voices of parents and educators,” the union decried.

But educators outside PS 64 last week seemed especially concerned with Cuomo’s plan to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on state test scores.

“We have no choice but to do daily test prep, because the children are judged by it and we’re judged by it,” said Meehan, a 5th grade teacher. “I know there has to be accountability, but using that [test] data doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Meehan also said that she has noticed how the looming tests have become a source of anxiety for some students.

“It kind of puts a little pressure on how you do, how you learn,” said Meehan’s son Nicholas, 11.

By Michael V. Cusenza michael@theforumnewsgroup.com


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