Change appears to be on the way in New York State education and there is reason to worry that it is the kind of change that will harm, rather then help, students who will eventually compete for jobs against those who are the product of environments that value excellence.
It my not turn out that way. After all, Betty A. Rosa, who is expected to be named chancellor of the state Board of Regents, is a former Bronx superintendent who joined the unanimous vote to hire reformer MaryEllen Elia as education commissioner. Yet, it is clear the Board of Regents is changing, and in a way that pleases such constituents as Philip Rumore, the stuck-in-the-past president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.
Following up on the State Assembly’s unfortunate refusal to reappoint Robert M. Bennett of Tonawanda to the Board of Regents, there is reason to worry that the Regents are turning into a special interest organization, concerned as much with serving teachers and the powerful unions that represent them than they are with educating New York’s students. It is they who deserve to be the focus of attention, as well as the state’s taxpayers, who deserve excellence for the enormous sums they pay for public schooling.Buffalo residents have ample reasons to be particularly concerned with the make-up of the Regents and its members' close ties to teacher unions. The city school district has a long history of failing to meet student needs, as well as prickly relationships between trustees and teacher union leaders. The graduation rate is 56%, less for black males.The percentage of students deemed college and career ready in Buffalo remains low, less than 12%. (The average in New York State rate is 37.2 percent.)
A 2015 independent audit found "ample evidence that the BPS curriculum does not
meet the needs of its students," that teachers fail to differentiate instruction, and that the district la lacks meaningful strategies for improving a long history of low student outcomes.
Last January the School Board attempted to address deficiencies by lengthening the school day and giving principals more autonomy, but these proposals require union waivers, which the union refused to sign. (Here's the latest on the endless negotiations for a new teacher contract.)
New York State's long slide towards unaccountability started with Gov. Cuomo's abrupt decision to stop supporting college and career-ready standards and appears to continue with Rosa's union-supported rise to power. Her appointment may work just fine for wealthy families in Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau counties, but it is a disaster for Erie County, 400 miles north of those tony suburbs.