(Syracuse) The Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor – Howie Hawkins and Jia Lee – were in Syracuse today to call for an overhaul of the state’s education policies, including more funding for schools in low-income communities; 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.
The Greens say the state should close the $4.2 billion cumulative shortfall in Foundation Aid funding that was intended to meet the requirements of the 2006 ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. They say the should settle, not fight in court, the lawsuits from New York City/Syracuse parents and the Small Cities for full Foundation Aid funding.
Lee, a NYC public school teacher and recent candidate for UFT president, 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 City are the most segregated in the country and schools in upstate metropolitan regions are among the most segregated in the nation.
“The experience from integrated schools is that all students do better in terms of intellectual self-confidence, creativity, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and tolerance,” Lee said.
The Syracuse metropolitan region is the 9th most racially segregated city in the nation. It has the highest concentration of black and Latino poverty, and 5th most concentrated white poverty, of any city in the nation. The economic segregation between city and suburban school districts is are among the highest in the nation.
Hawkins blasted Governor Cuomo and local leaders for failing to address the race and class segregation of schools in New York State and Syracuse. He called for redrawing school district lines in order to desegregate schools in cities like Syracuse where “school district lines serve as the new Jim Crow lines of segregation.” Controlled choice replaces student assignment based solely on the attendance zones with families ranking their choices of schools from across the district. Students are then assigned to schools based on their preferences and a formula that ensures a relatively even distribution of students by socioeconomic status across all schools.
Hawkins noted that the late Gerald Grant, an education professor at Syracuse University, had written a book called Hope and Despair in the American City that showed the far superior educational outcomes in the schools in Raleigh/Wake County that integrated by a countywide controlled choice program compared to the segregated schools in Syracuse. Hawkins also cited Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning in a speech in Syracuse in 1965 of the consequences if the city failed to desegregate it schools.
The Green Party charges that Cuomo’s state-imposed high-stakes testing and ranking of students, teachers, and schools has 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. SUNY should stop its effort to allow 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.