Albany Spin: The Legislature Finds a Sacrifical Lamb, Will the Gods Require More Sacrifices?

On Friday a “friend” called Josephine Finn, a judge in the village of Monticello and asked whether she’d like to join the Board of Regents, she explained to about 25 legislators who attended the interview on Monday that she studied up all weekend.

As the state legislators asked questions, some quite pointed, committee chair Cathy Nolan, frequently intervened, “You don’t have to answer that.”

Judge Finn was passionate, aggressive, explained she was a “fast learner,” didn’t seem to know anything about co-locations of charter schools, or, for that matter, wasn’t too sure what a charter school was. She favored the Common Core, sort of, agreed it was poorly implemented, and didn’t understand the moratorium proposal.

As reporters began to ask her questions “handlers” whisked her away.

Later in the day Regent Jackson withdrew his candidacy, and, on Tuesday the three incumbents and Judge Finn were elected to five year terms.

In a break from the past two candidates were nominated for each position – needing 107 votes (a majority of the 150 Assembly members and 63 Senate members) each of the candidates received 120 votes – all from Democrats.

Guess what, the selection process for members of the Board of Regents is political, as are selectees to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sometimes the selectees are obviously highly qualified, sometimes the reason for the nomination is obtuse, part of local political wheelings and dealings.

The Brooklyn and Bronx delegations choose Kathleen Cashin and Betty Rosa – both had long highly successful careers as educators culminating as superintendents, both regularly visit schools, serve on education panels, deeply and critically question State Ed initiatives and occasionally oppose proposals of the Commissioner. Recently they vigorously opposed a task force report on amending the implementation of the Common Core and supported a two-year moratorium. They were outvoted.

The Board of Regents is a policy board, same as boards of CUNY and SUNY. The “policy” is actually set by the commissioner (called chancellors at CUNY and SUNY), and reviewed and approved/denied or amended by the boards.

A couple of days before the Regents monthly 2-day meetings the “Agenda and Materials” arrive See March materials here – usually about fifty or so pages of resolutions, back-up reports ranging from items impacting K-12, higher education, libraries/museums, budgets/audits, special education and the many professions supervised by the Board of Regents (dentistry, psychology, nursing, social workers and fifty or so more).

The Regents approve/amend/defer actions on the Common Core K-12 Social Studies Framework, or the Next Generation Science Standards, Transition Planning and Services for Students with Disabilities, Educator Diversity, Proposed Amendment to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to the Duration of Limited Permits for Applicants Seeking Licensure as Mental Health Practitioners under Article 163 of the Education Law and about thirty other equally complex issues all on the agenda of the March, 2014 meeting.(Click on the link above for details of the proposals)

The commissioner drives the agenda, the few Regents with career long connections with education have questioned the avalanche of new programs, have suggested pilot programs, have urged outreach to “the field,” outreach to a wider community, all to no avail.

One program piled atop each other, until with the release of the Common Core State Grade 3-8 Exams were released – two/thirds of students failed the test – try as they could the commissioner and the State Ed staff could not assuage parent anger:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again

The parent anger not only did not abate, it increased, and who was at fault?

The governor blamed the Regents, appointed a task force, which issued a report, the legislators scrambled to avoid blame and found a “sacrificial lamb,” dumping Regent Jackson and allowing legislators most under fire to vote “no” on all the Regent candidates.

Will the charade convince parents that the legislators are guiltless…? Or, will the Governor require a “sacrificial lamb” higher up the food chain?


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