Cuomo Opportunity Agenda 2015

New commissioner of education MaryEllen Elia committed to state take-over of ‘failing’ schools

New York’s new commissioner of education MaryEllen Elia is committed to having the state take-over ‘failing’ school districts (Governor Cuomo called this putting schools into ‘receivership’ in his 2015 education budget demands) – specifically the Buffalo school district if they don’t mend their ways in the next year.

Buffalo News’ Tiffany Lankes:  If there was any question how serious the state is about taking control of Buffalo’s schools, new Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia made clear her intentions to Buffalo School Board members late last week. ‘Rest assured,’ she told them in a meeting in Buffalo, ‘that if the schools do not show demonstrable improvement, someone will come in under my authority and fix those schools.’ The state Education Department already is taking steps to do just that. A year from now, five Buffalo schools are headed for a takeover by someone outside the district. Twenty more city schools are on the same path for the following year. At that point, the state has within its power to place any city school it deems failing in the hands of someone outside the district. And as it stands now, just 15 of the district’s 56 schools are in good standing with the state. That means, unless significant improvement is made in student performance, someone other than the Buffalo superintendent or School Board will be in charge of nearly half of Buffalo’s public schools in just a couple of years. – Education commissioner to Buffalo:  Fix your schools, or I will – July 19, 2015

This post from Diana Ravitch is important since it shows New York State’s less than stellar success in a past attempt at turning around a school district.

It’s worth recalling the state’s previous attempt to “fix” a failing district. In 2002, the legislature passed a law permitting a state takeover of the segregated Roosevelt school district on Long Island.

John Hildebrand of Newsday summed up the gains and losses in 2013, when the state relinquished control.

“New York State’s historic takeover of Roosevelt schools has fallen short of its purpose in boosting student academic performance, raising questions over how Albany might better deal with struggling districts in the future, policymakers say. The state is highly unlikely ever to attempt another direct takeover of a local district, those officials add. Albany’s intervention ends Monday, after 11 years and more than $300 million in extra state spending.

Please don’t ignore this because it is happening far away in Buffalo. Who knows how long before the New York State Education Department might decide it is time to take over schools right here in Dutchess or Ulster County?  When a district is put into receivership, local control is lost.  The local school board and school superintendent no longer have any say in what happens in the district.

When Elia demanded that the School Board fix the city schools or she would act, she was referring to a new state law that allows for the appointment of receivers who would have unprecedented powers to make sweeping changes at failing schools.

A receiver, appointed by the district from a list of candidates selected by the state commissioner, would have the authority to circumvent the voting power of the School Board and force changes to union contracts.

The receiver could lengthen the school day, require staff members to reapply for their jobs and implement academic programs. – Education commissioner to Buffalo:  Fix your schools, or I will – July 19, 2015

As I read the comments from Commissioner Elia in the Buffalo News**, I have to admit that I wondered exactly how she expects NYSED to be able to fix Buffalo’s problems.  Blogger Sean Crowley almost lost me at the start with his Game of Thrones references (I haven’t seen it) but I have to agree with the sentiments in his post:

NYSED Commissioner Elia told the media –just like the previous ineptocrat who held the NYSED sceptre– she was on a “listening tour” of the state. In truth, Commissioner Elia wasn’t listening to anyone. She was making statements. More to the point, she was making threats dolled up as promises. In Buffalo she continued to bang the ed reform drum about “failing schools” who’d better straighten up and fly right.

… If bluster and threats from out of touch bureaucrats could fix our struggling schools, New York’s schools would be leading the nation. If it wasn’t enough to hear Cuomo or Lil John King popping off at the mouth with misguided machismo and tough talk directed at teachers, now we’ve got this Sunshine State re-tread, her million dollar brown parachute from Florida not even unpacked yet, picking up the storyline exactly where King left off.

Unfortunately it appears that we are looking at another year of TEST REFUSAL and continuing to fight to save public education in New York State for our kids.


**Note:  Just so everyone knows, the Buffalo News has been charged by several fighting against Common Core as being a mouth-piece of Governor Cuomo and those who are supporting all of the current ‘education reform’ in place in New York.  I knew that when I read the Buffalo News article but didn’t think to point it out until I came across Mr. Crowley’s blog post.