Jia Lee, Chapter Leader of The Earth School and a member of MORE, brought a MORE-sponsored resolution before the Delegate Assembly (DA) calling for a statement expressing opposition to the appointment of recently appointed state education commissioner MaryEllen Elia pointing to the lack of transparency and democracy in the process of her appointment which took place under a veil of secrecy. UFT High School VP and Unity Caucus member Janella Hinds spoke in favor of Commissioner Elia, calling her a “friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with”.Ms. Lee explained that the UFT’s support of the new commissioner is a mistake because, “In the day after her appointment, Elia stated strong support for the Common Core Standards and high stakes testing, while criticizing parents who opt their children out of these tests.”
In supporting the sentiment of Regent leader Meryl Tisch, to Elia it is just a matter of re-packaging rather than fundamental change. Elia has been a supporter of using student test scores to rate teachers. “We have an opportunity to harness and galvanize the experiences of teachers to proactively call for what students need in our schools and for our working conditions,” Ms. Lee said. “These things can no longer be compromised”.
The DA, dominated by Unity Caucus chapter leaders and delegates, voted against the resolution.
Resolution: No Confidence in New State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia
Whereas, the top down education policies under No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and high stakes accountability tied to Common Core Standards have had disastrous effects on whole child education and democratic, school-based decision making in New York State
Whereas, there was no transparency in the selection process, no public vetting of candidates, no .opportunity for public input in the appointment of the new State Education Commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia
Whereas, Ms. Elia’s record makes it clear she is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards (even though Florida has pulled out of Common Core) and high-stakes testing; she was an early proponent of using test scores to evaluate teachers, complete with $100 million in funding from the Gates Foundation. She also negotiated a merit pay system and supports school choice
Whereas, last January, the Hillsborough Board of Education voted 4-3 to dismiss her. Members who voted her out have been on record as criticizing her for board-superintendent tension, her salary and benefits, and constituent complaints about too much high-stakes standardized testing, some said her tough disciplinary policy disproportionately affected black students and employees who said her management style was heavy-handed.
Whereas, she failed to notify the district immediately that a 7-year-old girl had stopped breathing on a school bus and died later; she said she didn’t know the scope of the tragedy until the family sued the district.
Be it Resolved that UFT will hold a press conference and issue a press statement of no confidence in the appointment of Ms. Elia, because it does not serve the best interests of our children, educators, or public schools
Resolved that the educators of the UFT seek public vetting and member discussion before the leadership of the largest local in the state supports the appointment of any state chancellor
Resolved that our union leadership will organize meetings at the beginning of the 2015/16 school throughout the boroughs, for working UFT educators to discuss this appointment, state educational policies and develop our own vision of statewide educational policies that will best serve all our children
Be it further Resolved that the the UFT will fight for a renewed statewide emphasis on the arts, music, libraries and physical education for all of our children.
So Unity Caucus thinks that a commissioner who says that opt-outs are no good, who wants to “repaint” the Common Core narrative so that people like it, who has been accused of trying to cover up her former district’s complicity in the death of a seven year old, and who promised the Gates Foundation that she’d fire the “bottom” 5% of teachers every year is a “friend to teachers unions and someone we can work with”?!?! With friends like MaryEllen Elia, who needs enemies?!