First introduced in January’s State of the State, the governor’s plan has been widely criticized by local teachers and incited rallies and town halls across all five boroughs, as well as protests in Albany.
“This is about standing up for something you believe in,” said Public Advocate Letitia James, who joined about 100 parents and teachers at a rally at Fort Greene’s PS 20. “This is about democracy. We have to save our school, because we love our school.”
Cuomo has come under fire from teachers since introducing his sweeping revamp of the state’s current education system. Among his proposals are longer probation periods before teachers could earn tenure, and an increase in the number of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately-run, by 100. He said he would boost the state education budget by $1.1 billion should the legislature approve his new policies.
What has perhaps incited the most pushback from teachers, however, is the governor’s proposal to make Common Core testing account for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, up from 20 percent currently.
Teachers have lambasted the proposal, saying the increased emphasis on testing will put unnecessary stress on students and force schools to cut arts programming in favor of test prep, and have called into question how accurately the tests measure student achievement.
“My students are more than just a number,” said Veronica Dunlop as she marched at Ozone Park’s PS 64, where she has taught for 17 years. “It’s not fair to them. I’ve gotten [Common Core] tests back with tears on them.”
Michele Mosca, an art teacher at PS 64, said that she had elected for her own children not to take part in the testing.
“I think students will be practicing to take a test,” she said. “I’m a teacher, but I have my children opt out of taking the test.”
Teachers also spoke out against what they said was rampant underfunding, citing a 2006 lawsuit which mandated Albany infuse the state’s education system with billions in funding.
Recent reports show the state has largely failed to provide the funds dictated by the settlement, although Cuomo has said recently that he would increase the state’s aid to school if his plan was passed into legislation.
“We are owed this money for public schools,” said parent Carmen Berrios at PS 153 in Maspeth Thursday morning, as she joined hands with hundreds of parents in chanting ‘Say No to Cuomo. “It’s a shame, because we need it.”
When asked how many of her children attended PS 153, she simply pointed to a sign she held that referenced the 1,420 students at the school.
“There’s your answer,” she said.