Syracuse Teachers Association

2013 Syracuse Teachers Association VOTE COPE Committee questionnaire

for Common Council candidates for the City of Syracuse.

1. What is your vision for education in the Syracuse community?

All public school stakeholders are united in working for fully-funded, fully-staffed, full-service community schools that are neighborhood centers for student learning, pre-K and after-school programs, family support, health and social services, adult education, civic affairs, cultural events, recreation, and socializing. We are united in resisting the corporate “reform” agenda of No Child Left Behind high-stakes testing and Race to the Top competition designed to “fail” public schools, undermine teachers' professional autonomy, bust their unions, and privatize public education with charters and vouchers. We are united in addressing the root causes of the underlying problems our schools face: concentrated poverty, race and class segregation, and under-funding.

2. As a common councilor what do see as your role in formulating the SCSD’s annual budget?

I see formulation of the budget as primarily the responsibility of the school district staff and board. The role of the councilors is to review the proposed budget, offer constructive comments, and perhaps amend it before voting to approve. I am willing to participate in any forum related to formulating the budget, particularly to convey the concerns of 4th District school parents and students. I will pay particular attention to the equitable allocation of resources, which especially concerns communities in the 4th District. I believe councilors at this time of economic emergency for the city and schools should focus efforts with respect to the budget on speaking up and organizing to get New York State to provide the Foundation Aid funding it promised so the SCSD budget has sufficient resources to fulfill its mission.

3. As a member of the Syracuse Common Council how will you exhibit your support for the SCSD?

I will fight for the state funding that was promised. My top priority if elected will be to speak up and organize with labor, community groups, and other elected officials to demand that New York State fulfill its previously promised levels of state revenue sharing for the city and Foundation Aid for the schools. If these previously promised levels of funding were provided, there would be no fiscal crisis for the city and school district. The revenue sharing for the city budget is important for the school budget because it would reduce dependence on the allocation of limited local property tax revenues.

4. What are your thoughts about the city’s role in supporting Say Yes?

The city should prioritize support for the Say Yes Scholars program that provides free college tuition at New York State public colleges and private compact schools. The program should expand to trade and technical schools and remedial courses that prepare students for college level work. The Say Yes service and after school programs should be improved and integrated into full-service community schools. The current implementation of these programs suffer from under-funding, under-qualified staff, and too much emphasis on high-stakes testing preparation.

5. Given the city’s financial limitations, how will you support the SCSD's Strategic Plan?

My first priority is to reduce the city's financial limitations by getting New York State to provide previously promised levels of revenue sharing for the city and Foundation Aid for the schools. I will support Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan – equitable access – by advocating for equitable allocation in the budget review process on Common Council. I will support Goal 5 – communication with stakeholders – by organizing and encouraging 4th District parents to participate in their schools and by advocating for their needs.

6. As a Common Councilor, how will you help the STA and SCSD advocate for a fair funding formula for our schools?

I will speak up and organize with labor, community groups, and other elected officials to mount the same kind of campaign during the state budget debate in the coming fiscal year that the Big 6 mayors mounted in 1969-70 to win from New York State revenue sharing with cities and more school aid based on progressive state income taxes. Gov. Rockefeller at first said “the cupboard is bare,” like Gov. Cuomo today says “we don't have the money.” But the 1969-70 campaign successfully mobilized public support to change the budget politics in Albany. We can do the same today. The repeated cuts since 1980 in promised revenue sharing and school aid paid for top end tax cuts and balancing the state budget in recessions. The money is there with relatively modest progressive state tax reforms because the share of income going to the top 1% in New York State has grown from 10% in 1980 to 30% in 2012.

7. What are your thoughts on the role of charter schools in public education?

For Syracuse at this time, I oppose charter schools. If we can reverse the corporate “reform” agenda and secure full funding, then it may be time to re-examine the applicability of the original teacher-centered idea in Syracuse. The original teacher-centered idea for charters from teaching profession people like Ray Budde, Albert Shanker, and Deborah Meier was to give teachers autonomy, free from central administration interference, for small scale experiments with new ideas and to share the successful ideas with the other public schools. That was a good idea. But charter schools as practiced under corporate-driven “reform” have become a privately-managed, union-busting, profit-centered industry that seeks to privatize public education, that drains money from public schools, and that does no better than public schools in most cases and worse in too many cases where profiteering and sometimes fraud and theft have prevailed.  

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