Hawkins and Lee Call on Senate to Reject Both Teacher Evaluation Bills; They Want a Complete End to High-Stakes Testing and Charter School Expansion

Hawkins and Lee Call on Senate to Reject Both Teacher Evaluation Bills; They Want a Complete End to High-Stakes Testing and Charter School Expansion

For immediate release: June 13, 2018

The Green gubernatorial ticket of Howie Hawkins and Jia Lee called today on the state Senate to reject both versions of the teacher evaluation bills under consideration.

Lee is a public school teacher in New York City running for Lt. Governor on the Green Party ticket. Lee said last week that the bill on state school assessments and teacher evaluations that passed the Assembly and is pending before the Senate “ all smoke and mirrors. It does not eliminate using student scores on standardized tests to evaluate teachers. Instead, it just makes the use of such scores subject to collective bargaining. It keeps the ranking of schools by test scores in place.”

Hawkins said the teacher evaluation bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday night appears to share the Assembly bills’ goal of subjecting student tests for teacher evaluations to local collective bargaining, but then makes the bill even worse by proposing to expand charter schools. The bill raises the state’s charter school cap from 460 to 560 and ends regulation by the State Education Commissioner of yeshivas, a number of which have been criticized for low educational standards and poor student outcomes.

“Flanagan’s bill would undermine public education by redirecting public money to privately-owned charter schools. The hedge fund donors to Flanagan and his cohorts in both major parties will love it. They can double their money on loans to charter schools thanks to the New Markets Tax Credit. It’s good for hedge fund billionaires, but bad for the education of our children,” Hawkins said.

The current teacher evaluation law was enacted with Gov. Cuomo’s backing in 2015. It said state test scores would count for as much as half of a teacher’s evaluation. Responding to negative teacher and public reaction, the state’s Board of Regents put a moratorium on the use of grades 3-8 math and English test scores in teacher evaluations. The moratorium expires next year.

Hawkins said the use of children’s standardized test scores to rank schools and judge some as failures was being used to justify public school closures and their conversion to private charter schools. He noted that a quarter of the public schools in his city of Syracuse face that fate this year due to low test scores, which, he said, would wreak havoc on the public school district’s budget as public school money is diverted to charter schools. 

“Calling charter schools public because they get public money is like calling Lockheed Martin a public utility because they depend on defense department contracts,” Hawkins said.

"It is no surprise that high-poverty schools score low on these standardized tests,” Hawkins said. "We’ve known that correlation for 50 years from the data. It’s time to stop punishing poor communities and closing their public schools simply for being poor. Progressive education reform means ending poverty, desegregating our schools by race and class, and full and equitable funding so every student has access to a gifted-quality education.”

“The 4.2 billion-dollar shortfall in state Foundation Aid for public schools has led to the loss of veteran, experienced educators,” Lee said. “We’ve lost custodial staff and basic supplies, leaving us with crumbling infrastructures. We have lost physical education, arts and libraries, special education, and English as a New Language programs.”

"If we want to improve public education, we also have to address our policies that result in income inequality and segregation, including access to affordable housing, healthcare, and a livable wage," Lee said.

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