Jan 19, 2012 Herm Card Uncategorized
In his recent “State of the State’ address, governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he has appointed himself to a new position — that of self-styled “students’ lobbyist.” An interesting proposal for a governor, particularly one from a governor whose opposition to lobbyists is well known.
In his address, he implied that groups he referred to as having lobbyists — superintendents, principals, teachers, school boards, maintenance personnel and bus drivers — are focused on something other than the welfare of students. If he was being humorous it didn’t work — evident from the forced laughter from his audience.
He plans to appoint a bipartisan education commission “to work with the legislature to recommend reforms in these key areas.” Thus, by definition of “bipartisan,” he will be putting the control of education reform into the hands of people with opposing political interests, trusting them to come to agreements on items that they have never been able, or willing, to agree on.
His elaborate PowerPoint presentation highlighted the need for reform — the need to focus on student achievement, create a real teacher evaluation system and change the paradigm (education jargon for coming up with a different system). Sound familiar? These are not new, just things that no one has been able to accomplish. They are not lobbying for students, they are simply repeating the “same old, same old.”
Fortunately for us, the students’ lobbyist has access to, and the attention of, the entire executive branch of state government. Assuming he (the students’ lobbyist) and the governor can work together, I will suggest a few things important to Syracuse that he support when he lobbies the legislature and the State Education Department.
He might get involved in promoting some positive action in the seemingly eternal struggle for equality of state aid funding.
He might remind the State Education Department that by suspending Syracuse’s $11.5 million School Improvement Grant funding on some rather weak grounds, it effectively impedes one of the goals of the students’ lobbyist, and that SED reconsider, and restore, the funding.
He might emphasize that not all students are needy in the sense of being deprived of education. Many are deserving of the opportunity for accelerated and college level courses — lobbying for funds and commitment to improve that end of the curriculum might be a good plan.
He might ask that the SED enhance the status and funding of career and technical education programs — learning a skill is not mutually exclusive of learning. Academic success within a skill building context is no less academic success.
He might promote some rethinking of the testing madness that has become synonymous with SED. Possibly he could propose that tests begin to assess success compared to expectations relevant to those being tested rather than on a common, unrealistic, statewide norm.
He might support exploring the means to enable schools to establish and maintain functional online technology. Enabling 21st century computer literacy goes hand in hand with the concept of achieving 21st century literacy itself.
Oh — one more thing. The governor should understand that those groups he mentioned who have lobbyists are something more than their lobbyists — they, along with the students’ parents, are the students’ primary supporters, advocates, caretakers and educators. The governor — and the “students’ lobbyist” — might be better off working with them instead of insulting them.
Herm Card is a former teacher with more than 32 years of classroom experience and 20 years as a professional development consultant. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.