Tuesday evening was a night that will live in infamy for public education advocates in New York State. It was a night that saw the New York State legislature pass legislation that will certainly prove to be more damaging to our state’s public schools than any other legislation passed in our history.
The governor is certainly the chief villain in all of this, but numerous others emerged as well. Senator Ken Lavalle, for example, is one of many legislators with blood on his hands. Lavalle, who along with John Flanagan represents portions of the Comsewogue School District, was one of the dozens of legislators who ignored the pleas of his constituents in order to vote for the budget. For legislators like Lavalle it was a grand betrayal. One that is abusive to children, will ruin the careers of educators, and strips local control from our communities in order to pass it off to people who have never once stepped foot in Port Jefferson Station. These legislators surely assume that it was early enough in their new terms to stick a knife in the back of their communities. “The people will certainly all forget by the fall of 2016!” they are telling themselves. This is clearly one of the many places they have gone wrong. Because people won’t forget this. Voters won’t forget the day their state government overstepped their bounds and forced it’s way into school districts. Parents won’t forget the day their elected officials responded to calls for less testing by doubling down on high stakes testing. Teachers won’t forget the day that tenure was obliterated and they were given a mandate to “teach to the test.” Our brothers and sisters in other labor unions certainly took note as the state eroded due process rights and the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Dozens of these legislators will pay the price in November 2016. Many of the senators and assemblymen who haven’t yet been arrested for corruption will certainly be voted out by communities. However that won’t help us in the short run. Now we are left to pick up the pieces and figure out what direction to go in next. Parents in our community have already done that as the “Comsewogue Parents in Action” group has not only formed but swelled to over 100 in just two days. Local teachers unions will begin to configure their next steps while refusing to allow their own children to take the tests.
A few more take aways from this week…
- One point that can no longer be argued is that Mike Mulgrew is clearly either actively working against his own membership or is the most incompetent labor leader in history. I am not sure which would be worse. Mulgrew, who declared the budget a “victory” will be up for re-election next spring. When he is re-elected an enormous spotlight will shine on the rigged system of “democracy” that governs the UFT, the nation’s largest teachers local. That can only be a good thing.
- NYSUT Executive Vice-President Andy Pallotta, whose legislative record impresses nobody, got crushed again. His failure to prevent this atrocity seriously calls into question the votes of the NYSUT delegates who last year re-elected him, deeming him the only incumbent officer worthy of re-election. Pallotta, whose only legislative victory this term was securing a double pension for Karen Magee, Martin Messner, and Paul Pecorale (at what was possibly an enormous price) earns a large salary and a healthy number of perks from our membership dues. The NYSUT officers even helped themselves to a 2% raise last August. These are things that should stick in the minds of NYSUT delegates when they vote in 2017.
- A local hero emerged this week. Several legislators cast their vote against the budget this week. These are the legislators with a conscience. The elected officials who will at least be able to sleep at night as this debacle is rolled out over the next few months. We thank these members of the legislature for standing for their communities, our children, and our profession. From a local standpoint, Steve Englebright was chief among the supporters. Not only did Englebright vote against the budget deal, he bucked his party in the process. While most Assembly Dems were busy sticking a knife in the back of their community, Englebright stood tall for ours. It was a vote that took courage and conviction and the Comsewogue community is fortunate to have such a devoted public servant as a representative. We will fondly remember his vote when we head to the polls in November 2016.
I will leave you with an extraordinary video created by one of our students. Chelsea Smith is a Junior at Comsewogue High School. As part of her video production class she created a short film called, A Common Voice- Cutting to the Core of What’s Important in Education. It features appearances by Dr. Rella and several PJSTA members. Share it widely. Enjoy…