The Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor today spoke out strongly against a lawsuit to be filed by a former CNN anchor seeking to overturn tenure in New YorkState.
"The attack on teacher tenure is about scapegoating teachers for the conditions of our schools," remarked Brian Jones, a former NYC school teacher running for Lieutenant Governor. "Why aren't they filing suit against Cuomo for shortchanging local schools for funding by $9 billion? Or over the fact that New York State has the most segregated schools in the country, worse than it was 50 years ago?"
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, points out that teacher tenure was enacted nationwide more than a century ago to protect academic freedom and to stop the firing of teachers based on political and partisan changes in local school boards and principals.
"Tenure establishes and preserves a highly qualified teacher workforce in our schools. Teacher turnover is a huge problem -- especially in high-needs schools. Removing tenure does nothing to stop the revolving door. Tenure and seniority help to create a stable (i.e., not revolving) community of adults in schools, which is what children and families want," noted Howie Hawkins.
"Tenure prevents high teacher turnover and protects New Yorkers against the politics of personal bias, favoritism, and cronyism in our schools. Tenure means due process for disciplinary action. Teachers don't hire themselves and they don't control the disciplinary process," added Hawkins.
New York has a 3- to 4-year probationary periods for new teachers and a new evaluation system, which established an expedited process allowing schools to hold teachers accountable based on teacher evaluation results.
The Green Party pointed out that the Democratic Party and Governor Cuomo have been leading the fight in New York against teachers. Nationally, in 2010 President Barack Obama praised the firing of 93 teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island. When 7,000 teachers were fired in the wake of a devastating flood in Louisiana, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina."
"Like we recently saw with the tenure lawsuit in California, the New York plaintiffs are elite private schoolers bankrolled by millionaires, who want to argue that workers are the problem," Jones added.
“The education policies coming from the leadership of both major parties in the recent state budget – from underfunding public schools and promoting charter schools to modifying but not ending the high-stakes testing regime – are pro-privatization and anti-public schools. They are promoting a dual school system, separate and unequal. We need to address the root causes of low-performing students and schools in poverty, segregation, and underfunding schools in low-income communities,” said Hawkins.
The lawsuit is being filed by the Partnership for Educational Justice led by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown. Her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of the New York affiliate of StudentsFirst, an education lobbying group founded by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Washington, DC, chancellor who is a leader of the charter school movement.
Cuomo has been a strong proponent of privatization of education, including charter schools. Cuomo has received significant funding from hedge funds that find charter schools incentives to be highly profitable investments.