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Green Party Opposes High-Stakes Testing, Privatization, Charters

Green Party Opposes High-Stakes Testing, Privatization, Charters

For immediate release: July 26, 2017

Calls for Increased School Funding, Desegregation

(Rochester) The Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor – Howie Hawkins and Jia Lee – were in Rochester Thursday to call for an overhaul of the state’s education policies, including more funding for high-poverty school districts; a move away from high stakes testing and privatization, including charter schools; and the election of a Governor who supports rather than attacks teachers, especially following the Janus decision.

Rochester is considered perhaps the worst school district in the state if not the nation. Among districts with at least 2,000 students, Rochester is worst at fourth-grade math and second-worst at fourth-grade English, beating only Syracuse. It has frequent school closings, forcing students and teachers to move from school to school. Since 2002, the district has closed 26 schools (including School 41) and opened 18. Eight percent of elementary school students passed the 2017 reading and math tests and the city's graduation rate remains the worst in the state.

Nationwide less than half the students displaced by closures end up in better schools, according to research from the Center for Research and Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

Lee, a NYC public school teacher and recent candidate for president of UFT, said the “best way to improve education is end the racial, class, and academic segregation in public schools. Integration has been the most powerful progressive education reform since Brown v. Board of Education by far.” Schools in New York State are the most segregated in the nation.

“The experience from integrated schools is that it all students do better in terms of intellectual self-confidence, creativity, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and tolerance,” Lee said.

A 2014 analysis by the UCLA Civil Rights Project found New York to be the most segregated state in the country, and Rochester to have not only the poorest children in New York but also the most intense metro segregation in the state. "In the 30 years I have been researching schools, New York state has consistently been one of the most segregated states in the nation — no Southern state comes close to New York," lead researcher Gary Orfield said then.

Less than 20% of Rochester students are white (including those of Middle Eastern descent). Voluntary integration with suburban school districts has been a failure.

Half of Rochester’s children live in poverty. The district is very short of both special education and counselors to work with students’ problems. The district educates around 30,000 students and there are 12 charter schools who have almost 6000 students and one high school run by the University of Rochester. Rochester has a school choice program so parents can choose which school to send their students to. Elementary students ride school buses while other students ride city buses.

The Green Party charges that Cuomo’s state-imposed high-stakes testing and ranking of students, teachers, and schools has imposed undermined teachers in the classroom and destabilized schools in high-poverty districts. “Cuomo’s false rhetoric competition and so-called accountability has been to the benefit of for-profit businesses in the testing and charter industries,” said Lee.

“The state should support teachers, respect their professionalism and let them teach instead of micro-managing from the Governor’s office and state legislature. We should also repeal the lower standards for charter school teachers,” added Hawkins.

According to Apollo Global, an education consulting finance firm, the industry of education is worth over $2.5 trillion globally. The reason for this is "a decline in public funding of education around the world, leaving space for private concerns to move in..." as cited in a Washington Post story by Valerie Strauss.

“There are ‘failing’ or ‘bad’ schools primarily because of purposeful under-resourcing and privatization policies. Cuomo has allowed his business campaign contributors to influence educational policies in the shape of test-based evaluations and rankings. Under his leadership, our state's schools have suffered, our educators have suffered and our children have suffered,” said Hawkins, who noted that Cuomo has consistently refused to comply with court decisions on school funding levels.

“A crafted crisis in education through the use of high stakes standardized test scores has been the rationale for withholding funds and for state or centralized take-over of school districts. Ask any public school teacher or parent and they will testify that people in the schools have had very little to no say in educational policy in their districts,” added Lee.

The Green Party has long opposed charter schools as undercutting public education. Charter schools have often been used as cash cows by hedge funds and other investors taking advantage of favorable tax provisions. In Albany, the Brighter Choice Charter Schools have experienced financial problems, and while enrolling a large number of low-income children, they enroll far fewer students with disabilities and students who are learning to speak English. Charter schools tend to have a high rate of suspensions and often encounter management problems.

The FBI is investigating whether money is being skimmed from charter schools operated by the Fethullah Gulen in order to support his global Islamic movement. Gulen was a supporter of Turkish strongman Tayyip Erdogan before they fell out. Now Erdogan claims Gulen was behind the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, a charge Erdogan denies. Disgraced from national security advisor Michael Flynn is alleged to have been offered $15 million by Erdogan to either kidnap Gulen and render him back to Turkey, or have him extradited when the Trump administration took power. About 140 schools in the United States are part of the Gulen movement, including several in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica.

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