Carl Heastie’s Board: The Speaker Will “Own” the Successes, or Lack thereof, of His Board of Regents

Presidents, governors and mayors all see themselves as taking on major public issues and solving the problems. For President Obama the issue was health care, the vehicle was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), seven years later the ACA has been branded as “Obamacare” and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives have voted to repeal the law over fifty times.

In 2001 the new-elected mayor, Michael Bloomberg made the reorganization of the education bureaucracy in New York City his top priority. A school board appointed by the borough presidents and the mayor was converted into a mayoral agency – the mayor chose a majority of the central board (Panel for Education Priorities) and replaced elected local school boards with substantial power with virtually powerless Community Education Councils (CEC). For his first two terms Bloomberg made sweeping changes and two large bumps in pay under teacher contracts (2005 and 2007). By his third term Bloomberg was under assault, by the teachers union, parent advocates, and community organizations; his popularity ratings tanked. Sol Stern in City Journal wrote,

Sixty-four percent of respondents rated school performance as either fair or poor, with only 27 percent proclaiming it excellent or good; 69 percent said that students in the city’s schools weren’t ready for the twenty-first-century economy. New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

The decision to brand himself as an education mayor was a disaster.

Bloomberg’s successor has dismantled many of his signature programs.

In 2014 Governor Cuomo seized the education governor crown. In the arcane budget process (items having nothing to do with the budget are appended to the budget) Cuomo, who favored teacher evaluation by student test scores associated with high stakes testing  also added pro-charter school laws, forcing New York City to either provide space for charter schools in public school buildings or pay the rent for private space.

200,000 kids opted out of State tests, the opt out movement grew across the state, the state teachers union (NYSUT) bombarded the governor with critical TV and radio ads .  The governor’s popularity ratings headed south, especially over education.

The survey also found that 64 percent of New Yorkers feel that Common Core standards have either worsened education in the state or done nothing to improve it.

In September of this year the governor appointed a task force, in December the task force report including twenty recommendations that backed away from the most controversial of the governor’s initiatives – teacher evaluation: a four year moratorium.

As the governor backs away from education the new “power behind the education throne” is Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the Assembly.

Last year Heastie chose not to appoint the two most senior members of the Board and this year made it clear he’d was looking for new leadership.

Heastie has appointed nine of the 17-member Board of Regents – the Heastie appointees supported Betty Rosa and Andrew Brown as the new Chancellor and Vice Chancellor.

Rosa’s election was mauled by the New York Post and the New York Daily News as well as the Buffalo News,

It doesn’t augur well for excellence when the new chancellor of the state Board of Regents all but encourages parents to opt out of state assessments. It doesn’t even augur well for orderliness.

Next week the State testing begins and whether we like it or not, unless the Board can change the conversation, the metrics by which the Board of Regents, will be “judged” are opt outs, test scores and graduations rates.

The Heastie Board has several hundred years of experience working in the education trenches, working with the unions, with parents, with school boards, with local elected officials; they have the skills to bring together the stakeholders across the state.

Chancellor Rosa and Vice Chancellor Brown, along with both the new and the current Board have the experience to move away from the Cuomo agenda and create a new path. Move the dialogue away from test results and numbers of opt out to reducing the opportunity gap (a better term than achievement gap) for the “left behind:” ELLs, students with disabilities, the poorest and students of color.

Their success will be Heastie’s success, or, Heastie will own their lack of success.

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