Supporters of public education in New York State had their best day in long time yesterday with the election of Betty Rosa as the new Chancellor of the Board of Regents up in Albany. She received 15 votes with 2 abstentions. She told the Wall Street Journal that from her perspective as a parent she would opt her own kid out of this year's state tests.
Rosa's exact words:
“If I was a parent and I had a child who was taking these exams, and I looked at the conditions that exist, obviously I would say ‘Yes, I would opt out,’ ” she said in an interview. “Because I don’t think these are the right tests.”
She stood by these remarks at her introductory press conference on Monday.
This is a huge step forward from outgoing Chancellor Merryl Tisch who was a pro-privatization, pro-testing zealot. New Chancellor Rosa even won one of Leornie Haimson's Skinny Awards back in 2012. I was fortunate enough to win a Skinny back in 2011. Backing from Leonie is not to be taken lightly. However, let's not celebrate prematurely that the battle for public education has been won.
Andrew Cuomo is still the governor. He hasn't changed and suddenly become our friend. The pendulum may have swung in our favor recently but do not underestimate the forces that are aligned against the public schools. They have plenty of money and they are determined to privatize education.
The Education Transformation Act of 2015 remains on the books with teachers still scheduled to be rated 50% based on student test scores (it will just be a different test in many cases), at least four years of probation instead of three for new teachers to achieve tenure, and receivership for 5% of public schools each year that will be subject to state takeover where teachers can be dismissed without any due process in many cases.
Do the anti-privatization forces have a majority on the Board of Regents? I am not sure. New Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown expressed opposition to parents opting their kids out of the state tests at the same press conference where Rosa made her remarks.
Even if we do get a majority on the Board of Regents, just as we have tried using the courts, don't think the anti-public school forces aren't going to bottle up any changes the Regents might come up with in court too. The anti-tenure lawsuit is still out there as is the anti-union Friedrichs case (I know Friedrichs is federal but you get the idea.).
We are not out of the woods yet by any means so this is not a time to let our guard down and stop pushing for the changes we need to take back our public schools from the forces that are trying to destroy us. Yesterday's election of Betty Rosa was a big step in the right direction but it is not the end of the fight by any means.