Back in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out his plans to reform public education which included an overhaul of how we are evaluated. I was quite disheartened.
Evaluation is necessary, but to mandate 50% of test scores to our evaluations is unreasonable. This new standard is an attack on special education. Our students are enrolled in special education schools because of their severe disabilities and because of the mandates on their IEP’s (Individualized Education Plan, which is a legal document as mandated by the state).
Our city’s most vulnerable students are forced to participate in high stakes testing based on their grade, not abilities. These tests are developmentally inappropriate for our students and they result in much lower test scores. Lower test scores do not mean they have “bad” teachers. In fact, the teachers in my school are some of the most hardworking ones that I know. If Governor Cuomo is successful, and the 50% goes through, all special education teachers are in danger of having poor evaluations. What teacher is going to want to work in special education knowing that despite their hard work and dedication, they could be fired for it? Our special education students thrive on routine and with knowledgeable and adept teachers. If they don’t have these teachers, who will be there to educate and care for these students?
In Governor Cuomo’s speech he also made his love for charter schools quite clear. He showed his favoritism towards charters with no plan to help the funding-starved public schools. So why does Governor Cuomo love charters so much? In an article by Petr Svab in the Epoch Times, the donors behind Governor Cuomo’s reelection campaign were revealed, showing over $1.6 million in donations, from charter school proponents. Eva Moskowitz and her cohorts donated $682,367.
I know what it is like to be in co-location with Moskowitz. Her chain began in my building over eight years ago. She has gutted my special needs school without shame. Moskowitz’s school has become the “haves,” while my school, along with another general ed school in my building, became the “have nots.”
Over a year and a half ago, her plan, pushed through by Bloomberg and his cronies, would have shut down my school. If we had lost this space, federal, state, and local laws that were put in place to PROTECT these children would have been violated.
Mayor de Blasio has said many times that he would not permit her school to displace special needs students, which the media has mostly ignored. A press conference was organized by advocacy groups, teachers, students, parents, community leaders, and elected officials at my school. Coincidentally, Moskowitz planned her press conference for her lawsuits against the city that same day. Guess what got coverage?
She closed her schools last March to rally in Albany. Participants either did not know what they were fighting for or they did not care that over 100 students would be affected by her expansion. Governor Cuomo also made an appearance, and it was later revealed that he was instrumental in the planning of this event. Subsequent to this rally, he changed the law that gave charters more rights than public schools -- meaning, if they want space, they can have it.
TV ads then popped up showing 194 students. In some of those ads, those students were said to be cruelly kicked out by de Blasio. Families for Excellent Schools were behind those manipulative ads, spending over $6 million on them. My special needs school was forced to fight back.
De Blasio did offer Moskowitz space elsewhere. She gave a statement thanking all those involved, but she still had to include a dig that her original plans would've been ideal. Yes, kicking out special needs students that she does NOT want to educate would have been the right thing to do.
What Moskowitz has done, she will do to other schools.
Now Governor Cuomo, more than ever, is helping her and others like her. He wants to raise the charter cap considerably. This would force those publicly and privately funded charter schools with their own set of rules and no-tolerance policies, into our already crowded and underfunded public schools. What will become of our public schools then? How will we educate our special needs students when rooms needed for special services will be taken from them? How will our students run and play during gym when we have to share the space, which means those gym classes will have to be held in our students’ own classrooms?
These are just two examples. To me this just seems to be following a horrible nationwide trend of privatizing our schools and an ultimate goal of busting our teacher unions. If our teacher unions crumble, the remaining unions will fall like dominoes. We can then say good-bye to what’s left of the middle-class, worker’s rights, fair pay, and race/gender equality. Gone!
I will end with this. It is not acceptable for our public schools to be invaded by an entity that does not educate “all” as they claim, that steals our students' resources, and misinforms the media and the general public. It is not acceptable to fear for our jobs because we educate the city’s most vulnerable children. This war on special education must be stopped!