Parents Union: Cuomo ‘Violated the Memory’ of MLK With Education Remarks [Updated]

 Parents Union: Cuomo Violated the Memory of MLK With Education Remarks [Updated]

Andrew Cuomo (Photo: Wikimedia)

NYC Parents Union, a public-education advocacy organization strongly, condemned Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education remarks that invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memory.

“Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo violated the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by exploiting and manipulating Dr. King’s legacy of empowerment to promote a cynical political agenda that victimizes public school students, their parents and the teachers who are the foundation of public education,” the Parents Union’s statement began, calling on the Governor immediately change course on the issue.

Governor Cuomo announced at an event commemorating Dr. King’s legacy that he’d force the creation of a teacher evaluation systems in order to secure $700 million in federal aid from the Race to the Top program. He also said before the largely African-American audience that current public education policies have become “the great discriminator.”

The statement employed charged language against Governor Cuomo on charter schools in particular, saying that “Dr. King would never support bamboozling parents,” and that “Dr. King would never support pitting African-American and Latino parents against teachers and other unionized workers in the public education system.”

However, not every education advocacy organization is upset with Governor Cuomo at the moment. The Alliance for Quality Education praised his education efforts just today, although on a different set of issues than the Parents Union.

Update: Governor Cuomo’s office passes along praise for their education policies from multiple advocacy organizations and the State Education Department.

From Educators 4 Excellence:

“Applying more pressure on unions and local districts to finally implement a more effective teacher evaluation system is a wise move by Governor Cuomo, especially with nearly $1 billion in much-needed state aid and federal Race to the Top dollars now at stake. Even more important than the funding is the support and feedback a well-implemented multi-measure teacher evaluation system will provide to educators. In our work with over 3,500 teachers in New York State, we consistently hear that educators are willing to be held accountable for results, but want to know their voices are included in the creation of this system. We hope the Governor will continue to seek valuable input directly from the classroom.”

And from the State Education Department:

State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today said he and the Board of Regents welcome Governor Cuomo’s leadership on the issue of teacher and principal evaluations. King said he’s hopeful the Governor’s actions spur negotiations resulting in a rigorous, transparent, and fair evaluation system as envisioned in the State’s Race to the Top application. King said the State Education Department (SED) regulations issued last year were a good starting point for public negotiations.

“The Governor is right to be frustrated,” King said. “So far, there’s hasn’t been much progress. Earlier this month, I suspended School Improvement Grants because participating districts had failed to meet the deadline for acceptable agreements on evaluations. Now, the Governor has given SED and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) 30 days to resolve this issue definitively. We should use those 30 days to have a healthy public debate on evaluations. We’re ready to sit down and start talking.

Read the full NYC Parents Union press release below:

Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo violated the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by exploiting and manipulating Dr. King’s legacy of empowerment to promote a cynical political agenda that victimizes public school students, their parents and the teachers who are the foundation of public education. Governor Cuomo is wrong to do this and we, as public school parents, call upon him to immediately stop and reassess his approach.

Governor Cuomo stated that he sees school reform as a continuation of Dr. King’s struggle. We agree with the Governor completely. However, rather than committing his administration to fully supporting education in the state’s public schools – support that would include compliance with court decisions mandating increased funding for New York City’s schools in particular – Governor Cuomo has chosen the well-financed drumbeat of so-called “reformers” who see the privatization of public education as an acceptable outcome. We know that Dr. King would not agree with this divisive and deceptive approach.

We know that Dr. King would never support bamboozling parents to accept a so-called “parent trigger” law that, in reality, manipulates parents into converting their schools to charter schools – charter schools that, in turn, will greatly diminish parental rights compared to those in place for non-charter school parents.

We know that Dr. King would never support a public education approach that promotes segregation between perceived “haves” and “have nots” through the co-location of charter schools within operating public school buildings.

We know that Dr. King would never support pitting African-American and Latino parents against teachers and other unionized workers in the public education system. The legacy of Dr. King and the struggles of organized labor are intertwined. It is Governor Cuomo who forgets that Dr. King supported organized labor here in New York State and that he died while in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting striking sanitation workers.

We are, unfortunately, not surprised by the Governor’s callousness. Mr. Cuomo also said in his State of the State address on January 4 that there is nobody lobbying for students. We strongly disagree because we, the parents, lobby for our children’s education every day.

We, the parents, have to endure the rhetoric and destructive plans of hedge-fund financed front organizations who applaud the closing of schools, the replacement of qualified veteran teachers with well-meaning under-trained rookies, and the abandonment of children with special needs and English Language Learners. These outcomes are not happening to Mr. Cuomo’s children or those of the hedge-funders; they are happening to Black, Latino and Asian children in overcrowded and under-resourced schools.

We, the parents, have to endure the co-location of charter schools that pay no rent for space in buildings where our children were denied small class sizes, music and art programs, quality libraries, adequate space for special needs students, and a reasonable and safe lunch hours.

Maybe Governor Cuomo’s Education Commissioner, Dr. John King, is comfortable — or must be comfortable — with the attack on public education. But the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would support true parent empowerment and would be standing with the real stakeholders—students and parents and teachers and the community.

New York’s parents — real parents untainted by well-financed organizers — want education legislation that truly empowers parents, not privatizers. We hear the real drumbeat of the civil rights movement. Therefore, the NYCPU Legislative Agenda for 2012 is our first step in the ongoing struggle to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. This agenda includes a parent empowerment policy that provides parents with choices for taking over failing schools — choices that don’t enrich privatizers. We welcome Governor Cuomo’s support for our Legislative Agenda