Some Profiles of Members of the Cuomo Commission

Leaders of the Opt Out movement are disgusted by Governor Cuomo’s appointment of a commission that ignores parents of the 220,000 children who opted out of state testing. Does the Governor expect to get fresh thinking or a serious curriculum review from the chairpersons of the Senate and Assembly Education Committee? Or from the President of the State University of New York, who has a full-time job (and is a strong supporter of Common Core)?

Here is a full list of Commission members.

Jeanette Deutermann, leader of Long Island Opt Out, did some research on some of the educators and parents who are members of the Cuomo commission. She was assisted by parent leader Michele Trageser.
She shared it with me and allowed me to post it here.

The chair of the Commission is Richard Parsons.

Richard Parsons – appointed chair of the task force. His bio states he is Chairman of the Board of Citigroup, in addition to being senior Advisor of Providence Equity Partners. He left Citigroup in 2012 to focus on a new jazz club an Italian vineyard, and various board memberships. He has been CEO of the LA Clippers since 2014. Mr. Parsons was also head of Cuomo’s previous Education Reform Commission in 2012. You know the one that recommended expanding charter schools to Pre-K. The one that said NY should “promote increased access to educational opportunities by encouraging school district restructuring and consolidation. He must like Charters considering he spent time on the advisory board of Deborah Kenny’s Charter network, Harlem Village Academies.

Here are sketches of some of the other members:

Mr. Geoffrey Canada – founder of Harlem Children’s Zone and who was the “star “, along with his ed reform agenda of Waiting for Superman. A New York Times Article called the Harlem Children’s Zone, “One of the most ambitious social policy experiments of our time”. In April of 2014, Governor Cuomo appointed Mr. Canada as one of three members of the Smart Schools Commission, who were charged with advising the state on how to best invest the $2 billion Smart School Bond money.

Constance Evelyn – Superintendent of Valley Stream District 13 on Long Island. Ms Evelyn has made no secret of her love for Common Core up until now. In a piece on the engage NY website on December 2013, she states that the implementation has been difficult, but is worth it. She then proceeds to state what teachers and students say they the like and are different (aka better) with common core. She claims teachers say that with common core, students “read like detectives”, “respond to difficult text with details and dig deeper into the text”, and “collaborate with peers and think critically”. Again, are they saying that these things are because of common core, and that they didn’t happen before? In a response to a memo from John King, Ms Evelyn stated “ We must challenge our students differently than we have in the past. The Common Core represents a necessary and dramatic shift that strengthens both the call and case for rigor. These standards focus our attention on learning targets that systematically integrate skills in reading, literacy, writing, and higher order thinking. I’m excited about the doors that will be opened by the new standards for my child and every student that has the good fortune of living in a state that made the decision to adopt them.”

Ms. Heather Buskirk – . In addition to being a national Board Certified Teacher of physics and math , she is one of the 2015 America Achieves NY Educator Voice Fellows: The people who get paid a stipend to promote Common Core . The Fellowship website states the educators in the fellowship need to write and publish op eds, and utilize social media to “positively communicate and elevate the conversation in support of college and career ready standards” aka the Common Core Standards.

Carol Conklin Spillane – Principal of Sleepy Hollow High School. While she has spoken out against linking student performance to accountability , it was more along the lines of it happening too fast. She stated, “In my opinion, the move to Common Core is a good initiative that is unfortunately mired in the multiplicity of political agendas (Race to the Top).

Kishayna Hazelwood – third grade teacher from PS 156 in Brooklyn. No info aside from her task force bio is available.

Carrie Remis – listed as Rochester area parent. A former Catholic School administrator and head of the Parent Power Project. She also served on a member of Cuomo’s previous Education Reform Commission. She also serves on several boards including the Opportunity in Education Coalition, the National School Choice Week Coalition, and the Center for Educational Justice. The Opportunity in Education Coalition lobbied alongside Campbell Brown for the Education Investment tax credit this past spring. The National School Choice week partners include Students First, The national Alliance for Public Charter Schools, The Fordham Institute, etc… In her testimony as head of the Power Parent Project before the State Senate Ed Committee hearing in October 2013, she stated that she believed parents opposed to the Regents Reform Agenda were in the minority. (Her son at the time was a sophomore in “one of the best” high schools and given his age was not ever affected by Common Core ). She also stated that “special interests-namely the New York State United Teachers and their surrogates——are expertly taking advantage of parents who feel excluded, amplifying our concerns and distorting the truth”. She also said that school district officials were deliberately misinforming parents about Common Core so that it seemed Common Core was “replacing NCLB as the new education boogey man”.

Sam Radford – Buffalo parent. Head of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo. In the past he has said that teachers should be evaluated on student growth or lack of it. “ A teacher should be evaluated on some scale for every student they teach”, he said in an interview. A February 2014 article featuring him in the Buffalo news said people either see him “as a champion for educational equality and accountability, or as a self promoting dissenter more focused on causing trouble than finding answers”. Mr. Radford is married to an “educator who runs a charter school.” His 14 children have attended public, Catholic and charter schools. He “pushes for the rights of parents to transfer their children out of struggling schools and into better ones, be they public, charter or private.”

Like Fox News might say: Fair and balanced.

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Mike Klonsky: Rahm Cuts Special Education

Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago Public Schools is cutting special education.

“Our autocrat at City Hall appears bent on dismembering special education in Chicago by a thousand cuts. SpEd took its first major deep cut over the summer eliminating 500 positions at CPS. More cuts announced late Friday mean approximately 160 schools would lose special education teachers, while 184 would lose aides.”

Let the lawsuits begin. There is a federal law to protect children with disabilities.

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Joel Klein’s Amplify Lays Off 2/3 of Its Employees: “The Cold, Inhumane Hand of Capitalism at Work”

This morning, Amplify laid off two-thirds of its staff–some 800 people. Amplify is a division of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Its CEO is education reformer Joel Klein. Murdoch invested $1 billion in Klein’s Amplify. NewsCorp has been trying to find a buyer for Amplify since it has never earned a profit in the five years of its existence. This past year it lost $371 million.

“In a tweet this morning, Alex Modestou wrote that Amplify Education laid off 800 employees today. The Observer has reached out to the company to confirm. NewsCorp has been looking for an investor to take over the division, as the Observer previously reported.

“Multiple sources inside and outside the company said that most of its staff lost their jobs today, effective immediately, at around 10:30 a.m.

“Mr. Modestou told the Observer in a phone call that he worked part time on the math curriculum for the company in its Durham office, before being let go today at 10:30 a.m. Mr. Modestou wrote the tweet, he told us, because full time employees had been offered three months salary in a lump sum in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. He did not sign because he was not offered any kind of package.

“He said, “This is like the cold, inhumane hand of capitalism at work, and it seems wrong that they could stay in the shadows.”

“The 800 employee figure was based on an estimate Mr. Modestou made based on documents he’d seen before leaving. When Amplify announced it was first looking for a buyer, he said that people in the company had warned staff to expect layoffs of a sixth of the company. That rose to half over time. If 800 people were laid off, that would be roughly two-thirds of the reportedly 1,200-person company.

“Another source told the Observer in a phone call that employees in New York City were taken to meetings in the company’s Manhattan office and its Dumbo offices today. Employees in the Manhattan office were told that they were either keeping their job or they would be staying longer to help with the transition, in some new role.

“Mr. Modestou said that he and his fellow employees were told by Amplify CEO Joel Klein and Amplify Learning President Larry Berger via a conference call. We’ve also heard that this is how employees sent to the Brooklyn office were told. Mr. Modestou described the call for us, saying that “They didn’t say anything but ‘we’re letting you go’ in very lawyerly terms.”

“He added that the pair added a note of appreciation for their service and an apology that they had let the company grow larger than its revenue could support.”

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Hudson Valley Parents: Cuomo’s Commission is a Farce

Parents in the Hudson Valley of New York are outraged by Cuomo’s commission to review the Common Core standards and tests.

This is a region that encompasses both high wealth and high poverty. It had some of the highest opt out numbers in the state.

Here is a large sample:

After conceding that “evidence of failure is everywhere”, Governor Cuomo recently announced his fifteen member 2015 Common Core Commission. Billed as an opportunity to cure an “implementation” problem, the commission is notably lacking in any representation of elementary school parents, let alone critics of the Common Core. Parents across the Hudson Valley reject yet another pointless commission that ignores the concerns of parents and educators.

“A panel of advisors hand picked by Chancellor Tisch made recommendations about the Common Core Learning Standards to the Regents in February 2014 and the Governor himself was responsible for putting together a Common Core Implementation Panel who made recommendations in March 2014. Now, over a year and half later, the Governor admits that “failure is everywhere”. The Governor keeps asking for time to make common core work but my children have no more time to give. Their most formative years are being wasted and abused by this deeply flawed and developmentally inappropriate education reform which focuses on standardized testing and eliminates authentic teaching” said Joanne Tumolo, Mahopac public school parent and co-founder Putnam, Northern Westchester, Southern Dutchess Refuse the Tests.

Failure of the experimental Common Core Learning Standards comes as no surprise to the 220,000 families of public school children who chose to refuse NYS Common Core tests in the spring of 2015. While state education officials claim that the appointment of new test maker, Questar will address the public concerns, parents know that this is simply more of the same. Until New York State takes action to scrap the Common Core Learning Standards and halts the invalid use of discriminatory test scores to evaluate schools and teachers, opt out will grow.

Christine Zirkelbach co-Administrator of Hudson Valley Parent Educator Initiative said: “The Governor continues his charade of listening to the parents of New York State students by appointing a commission to review Common Core State Standards where the majority of the members are not professional, life time educators at all. Parents are not going to be appeased by another commission or rebranding of CCSS. Parents will continue to advocate for our public schools until local control is restored and the Governor and NYSED no longer mandate the corporatization of our children’s education.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education said “While the task force includes business leaders with no pedagogical knowledge, it does not include a single parent of an elementary school child. And of the 15 person panel, there are two teachers, only one of whom is an elementary school teacher. The panel is a sham and disgrace. Union leaders and politicians claiming to support the best interest of children should refuse to participate until the parents and teachers of the young children harmed by these experimental learning standards are represented.

“The Governor’s selected panel is very disappointing. There is not a single member who is an expert or a teacher of Math or English. The exclusion of parents of Special needs students and Special Educators is alarming. This task force is a farce and it’s another failed attempt by the Governor to mend a system that is failing miserably” said Suzanne DiAngelo Coyle, Rockland County public school parent and administrator of Stop Common Core Rockland County.

Who on this commission will actually do the work of reviewing the standards and the tests? This appears to be yet another “Cuomo commission” that has lots of sound and fury, amounting to nothing.

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Shocker: AFT Supports Progressive Groups!

Blogger RiShawn Biddle has made a startling discovery: the American  Federation of Teachers has given money to progressive groups! Biddle is anti-union and strongly pro-privatization.

Another shocker: Randi Weingarten is paid almost as much as NYC charter leader Eva Moskowitz! Randi is president of a union with more than one million members. Eva oversees a small charter chain with fewer than 10,000 pupils (errata: scholars).

Biddle lists the organizations that have received AFT money. Included among them are:

Center for Popular Democracy, on whose board Weingarten sits, picked up $60,000 from AFT while its action fund received another $100,000; the group has done more than its duty for the union (and its goal of opposing school choice) by teaming up with In The Public Interest to publish a series of reports demanding “accountability” for public charter schools. In The Public Interest, by the way, picked up $50,000 from AFT for doing the union’s bidding. AFT gave $25,000 to Netroots Nation, another longstanding beneficiary of its largesse. It gave $27,000 to The Nation, which has become a prime venue for pieces that favor the AFT’s views on systemic reform; and handed $10,000 to Dissent, the progressive magazine that occasionally makes The Nation seem downright conservative.

Another key group AFT is funding is the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which has been worked actively on pay equity and other issues. This includes its Early Care and Education project, which has issued a steady stream of reports calling for preschool teachers to be better-paid; this dovetails nicely with AFT’s twin goals of regaining dominance in education policy and becoming the dominant union in the early childhood education space. The union gave $47,500 to IWPR in 2014-2015. AFT also poured $60,000 into Jobs with Justice and its education fund; gave $20,000 to Policy Matters Ohio; and handed out $50,000 to Public Policy and Education Fund of New York. United Students Against Sweatshops, which has actively opposed reform outfits such as Students For Education Reform and Teach for America on behalf of AFT, picked up $50,000 from the union last year. Americans United for Change picked up $90,000 from AFT in 2014-2015.

AFT also gave $250,000 to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which reports on the state of working Americans and on the importance of reducing poverty. Shocking!

If you scan the schedule, you will see that Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union was bought and paid for by the AFT for $7,664.

I can’t wait for RiShawn to do a report on the Walton Family Foundation, which spent $202 million to shape education policy and launch more privatized schools. I didn’t sum the total of all AFT contributions to civil rights groups, publications, and other progressive causes, but it seems to be far less than Walton’s $202 million.

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NY Opt Out Leaders Protest Phony Cuomo Commission

The Néw York State Allies for Public Education, representing more than 50 grassroots groups across the state, denounced Governor Cuomo’s commission to review and revise the Common Core standards and tests. Yet th Cuomo commission includes no parent who opted out, no early childhood educator, but many who served on Cuomo’s last, failed commission.

NYSAPE describes the commission as”donor-driven,” chaired by the same banker who chaired the last Cuomo commission on standards and tests.

Opt out leaders promise to refuse the tests next spring.

“The Cuomo Commission consists of many members from his first unproductive Commission and will again be led by the same businessman, Richard Parsons, despite the public’s outcry for an educator-led process. Parents know the Common Core standards and the Common Core exams are damaging their children’s education, not because they are “confused”, but because the standards themselves are invalid.

“Governor Cuomo cannot use a political task force to get politics out of education. Until our children’s education is once again under the direction of real education experts and classroom teachers, parents will not comply. Continuation of an unreliable teacher evaluation system tied to test scores, inappropriate and untested Common Core curriculum in our classrooms and inappropriate exams will not be tolerated. A task force devoid of critics is pointless.” –Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

“If the governor really wanted to fix this mess, he would have called back the legislature for a special session to undo the laws that got us here in the first place. It is time to get back our real learning in our kids’ classrooms and to local control by elected school boards. Without a fundamental improvement to the Common Core standards, the state exams and the way test scores are being unfairly used to stigmatize schools, teachers and students as failures, the number of parents opting out is guaranteed to sharply rise again this year.” –Lisa Rudley, Hudson Valley public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“Governor Cuomo is not trying to fix the problems with Common Core and testing. He is trying to make it salvage his reputation and his poll ratings, to make it ‘look like’ he is fixing these problems. These problems are not difficult to fix. Start by disconnecting tests from teacher evaluations to the extent allowable by Federal law, and then totally redo the standards and the exams by allowing New York teachers to rewrite them. But it appears that the Governor does not really want to do what is best for our children.”–Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“Cuomo claims Common Core is headed for a total reboot. Oddly enough, he has chosen 15 individuals as members who never had a problem with the standards to begin with. It is not often that you ask a bull to clean up the mess it has created in the china shop.” –Kevin Glynn, Long Island public school parent and educator.

“Governor Cuomo claims he is listening to parents, yet he has established another group that contains many of the same members as his previous commissions, which totally failed to provide answers to the education crisis created by the corporate reform movement. Polls show that the public is opposed to the Common Core, over-testing our children, and tying teacher evaluation to assessment results, yet the vast majority of Cuomo’s latest task force support the very policies rejected by New York families.” – Chris Cerrone, Western NY public school parent, school board member and educator.

​“For too long the majority of NYS Regents led by Chancellor Merryl Tisch have failed to provide the leadership necessary to protect children from harmful reforms. While the tide is changing with six Regents representing kids, the parents of Central NY see that Vice Chancellor Bottar has failed to protect kids and will call for his ouster.” –Jessica McNair, Central New York public school parent and educator.

“To show how off-base Cuomo is, in his speech he bragged about the teacher merit pay system he has imposed on the state. Teacher merit pay has never been shown to work to help kids learn, and this is one more sign of his willingness to waste millions of dollars of our taxpayer funds on untested or even damaging programs, in place of proven reforms like class size reduction.” –Lori Griffin, Northern New York public school parent and educator.

“Parents don’t just want politics out of their kids’ education. They want Andrew Cuomo and his political contributors to stay out of their classrooms. Parents across the state have vowed to continue refusing these harmful tests and practices to protect their children and their schools.”

Join NYSAPE. Help them resist political manipulation of our children and our schools.

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Operation HOPE launches innovative student loan, debt, grants App!

Thanks to the generous support from our partner FINRA, the FINRA Foundation, and their CEO, Richard Ketchum, along with the internal leadership of our Operation HOPE team, led byMary Hagerty-Ehrsam and Omari Pearson, we have recently unveiled our newest innovation, featured in the above video.

The Banking on Our Future, College Edition App for aspiring college students.  Help us spread the word. This could help countless tens of thousands of young leaders for the future, needlessly stressed out today, in real time.

Let me and my team know what you think.

John Hope Bryant

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See “Heal Our Schools”! Sponsor a Showing in Your Town

Laurie Gabriel is a teacher who decided to take action to save her profession and students. She directed and produced an excellent documentary called “Heal Our Schools.” Below is her schedule of showings.

My favorite scenes: when she interviews three critics of teachers, then invites them to teach a lesson. It is hilarious!

Contact Laurie to show it in your community.

She writes:

Heal Our Schools Fall Screening Schedule – add your city to the list!

Heal Our Schools is a teacher-produced film about giving classroom control back to teachers.

NEED VENUES IN LA ON OCTOBER 18 AND ALBUQUERQUE NOVEMBER 20!

OCTOBER 2 – DENVER
10:00 am, Elvis Cinema, 7400 E. Hampden Ave.

OCTOBER 3 – DENVER
2:30 pm, First Unitarian Church, 4101 E. Hampden Ave.

OCTOBER 18 – LOS ANGELES
evening – looking for venue/charity to share in proceeds!

OCTOBER 19 – SAN FRANCISCO
7:00 pm, – First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin St.

OCTOBER 20 – SEATTLE
7:00 pm, Freedom Socialist Hall, 5018 Ranier Ave. S.

OCTOBER 24 – BOULDER / LAFAYETTE CO
2:00 pm, Running River School 1370 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette

NOVEMBER 5-7 MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Details pending

NOVEMBER 12 – 14 YAKIMA /TRI-CITIES WA
Details TBA

NOVEMBER 19 – SANTA FE NM
7:00 pm, Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd.

NOVEMBER 20 – ALBUQUERQUE
evening – looking for venue/charity to share in proceeds!

Call 719-213-6850 or email laurie@healourschools.org for more information.

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How Charter Operators Rip Off Taxpayers

This article explains the financial shenanigans of unscrupulous charter operators. Not every charter founder rips off taxpayers, but the public needs to know when charter schools are set up to benefit greedy investors, not children.

“Eileen Appelbaum, co-author of the important book Private Equity at Work, flagged an important article in Philly.com on how a secretive consulting firm that was previously investigated for corruption and a local law firm are engaged in complex, high cost bond deals to implement an asset stripping strategy that Appelbaum and her co-author Rosemary Batt have called out as a private equity enrichment scheme that impairs operating businesses. It’s bad enough to see this sort of thing take place in the dog-eat-dog world of Corporate America. It’s even worse to see it take place in charter schools, where the losers are students, by virtue of unjustifiably large portions of charter fees go to unproductive rental payments and financing fees, as opposed to education, and to taxpayers, who over time face inflated costs to fund profiteering masquerading as education.”

The article then refers to the scandalous real estate deal to finance a luxurious building for the String Theory charter school in Philadelphia.

“The nub of the looting strategy is the acquisition and leaseback of lavish buildings to house charter schools. Because charters are correctly perceived to be risky tenants, bond financings for these purchases are at junk bond rates, meaning high financing costs are heaped on top of what would already be unjustifiably high rental charges, by virtue of putting schools in educationally unproductive glamorous digs. And of course, in an environment where it’s business as usual to lard up bond deals that could be done on a plain-vanilla basis with far more complicated deals that lower interest rates a smidge in return for allowing consultants to charge hefty fees and the financiers to dump risks worth more than the cost savings on the hapless borrower through derivatives, the financial rent extraction can occur at an even greater scale on a high-cost financing.”

And this is a quote from a story at Philly.com:

“In 2007, Independence Charter School issued a bond for $18 million dollars with help from the PIDC for the purchase and renovation of the vacated Durham Elementary at 16th and Lombard streets. That school had been built in 1907 and maintained by the district with tax dollars for a century. Now, millions in debt and interest from Independence’s charter bonds are also being paid off with tax dollars.
In situations like these, [Rutgers professor Bruce Baker said, taxpayers are paying for the same buildings twice, while relinquishing public ownership of those properties.
“It’s not that anyone is doing anything ‘wrong,’ ” he said, “But rather that public policy permits a bad deal for the public — one that essentially gives away a public asset while charging transaction fees along the way.”

How long will this theft of public property be allowed to continue?

The cases cited in this article are not isolated. There are a growing number of charter schools that buy the property the school will use, using publicly-financed bonds, then pay rent to themselves, at exorbitant rents.

These practices have been perfected by for-profit charter corporations, but some faux-nonprofits do it too.

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