Are Governor Cuomo and the Gates Foundation Making Education Policy for New York State? Has the Board of Regents Been Replaced? (I Hope Not!)

The seventeen members of the NYS Board of Regents are unpaid and unstaffed, trek to Albany (well, until now) once a month for an intense day and a half meeting. For the last decade I have also trekked to Albany to attend the meetings. I’ve come to know a number of the members, they are incredibly dedicated. The Board selects a chancellor, a leader from among their own ranks and the Board hires a commissioner who manages P-16 education in the state as well as the professions.

The role of the Board is to establish policy.  New regulations or changes in regulations must be sent out for pubic comment; the Board frequently selects work groups from among the many stakeholder organizations to participate in policy considerations. The board members are retired educators, superintendents, teachers, lawyers, a nurse, a doctor, a parent advocate, a judge: their e-mail boxes are always overflowing, they meet with group after group in their region;  their diversity represents the diversity across our state

The structure of the meeting are long established, a full board, live-streamed, with a current relevant topic, followed by committee meeting: P-12, higher education, the professions, cultural education, etc., with a hundred or so in the audience.  Although the members are “elected” for five year terms by a joint meeting of the state legislatures party politics never enters the discussions.

Monday’s meeting was “zoomed” from the homes of the board members. Among a range of topics Chancellor Rosa announced the board would convene a task force made up of stakeholders to participate in planning for the re-opening.

Tuesday morning I came back from my morning bike ride, beautiful azure sky, too chilly, glorious never the less.  Reading my email, the NY Times, catching up on other reading and the governor’s daily press conference.

I was, well, surprised, shouldn’t have been, the governor has essentially precluded the legislature from any meaningful policy role and now has precluded the Board of Regents.

 Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:

  • How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;
  • How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;
  • How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;
  • How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;
  • How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;
  • How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and
  • Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?

The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.

I smiled when I read the description above, sounds like the governor’s closest friend/advisor, now the President of SUNY Empire College,
Jim Malatras.

…we helped pioneer non-traditional and distance learning, and we remain at the forefront today.

Whether you take your courses online, onsite at one of 33 locations statewide, or a mix of both, you choose how and when you learn. You also have options to study full-time or part-time.

Our cutting-edge technology and course delivery methods mean you can earn your SUNY Empire State College degree regardless of where you live or when you work.”

Read about “immersive cloud virtual classrooms” here.

The Long Island Opt Out Facebook page (25K members) exploded with highly critical comments.

Gate’s flurries into education policy have been troubling, the implementation of  the Common Core, using student test scores to assess teachers and principals, and on and on.

Gates and company are technology wizards; teachers are at the core of the teaching-learning process.

The melding of technology and education has encountered many bumps in the road.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) have very high dropout rates,

… there is often a lack of active learning or effective instructional design, and a lack of interactivity or scaffolding of the learning experience for beginners

A recent report is critical of college online college courses,

students with weak academic preparation and those from low-income and under-represented backgrounds consistently underperform in fully-online environments.

An hour after the Cuomo presser Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted,

Randi Weingarten

@rweingarten

  • 7h

Hey @NYGovCuomo .. what about the amazing educators .. who are “reimagining education” EVERY DAY during this #COVID19 crisis.. Why not start with the thousands of them… and @NYSUT and the #NYSRegents.. They have wonderful, creative, caring ideas … #justathougt
A few hours later the Cuomo team may have backtracked,

Randi Weingarten

@rweingarten

5h

Just talked to @NYGovCuomo staff.. Glad to hear Gov’s announcement was a first step.. that @gatesfoundation will be helping given their extensive knowledge of public health & technology, but NY’s educators will be key in #reopening NY’s school building. #InItTogether

On this Leonie Haimson’s “Talk About Schools” (Listen at WBAI.ORG) UFT President Michael Mulgrew, to be kind, was unenthusiastic about the proposed role of the Gates Foundation.

The questions the governor raised are worthy of exploration, they are not new; we have been exploring them for years, and will continue.

Technology cannot replace teachers, technology can enhance instruction. Currently teachers are grappling with how to motivate, connect, how to address social emotional learning in a remote environment. The one thing we do not need is the Gates Foundation telling us how to teach, and, I hope that is not their intent,

A suggestion:  the Gates Foundation join the Board of Regents stakeholders task force and work together towards supporting teachers and parents,

UPDATE: Former Google CEO to lead Cuomo’s “reimagine” commission

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-york-gov-cuomo-enlists-ex-google-ceo-eric-schmidt-to-head-commission-to-reimagine-the-state-after-covid-19-2020-05-06

3 responses to “Are Governor Cuomo and the Gates Foundation Making Education Policy for New York State? Has the Board of Regents Been Replaced? (I Hope Not!)

  1. I hope that the Gates Foundation learned from its previous involvement. Those went poorly, with lots of $ spent, great pressers and backsliding in the schools. Only in the schools is everyone an expert. Would they think of reorganizing NASA?
    Why do we still believe two antithetical ideas? One, that “every child is unique” and two, that each unique child can accomplish the same thing in the same time (September to June)? Regardless of home situation and support? Preposterous!

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  2. Pingback: New York: Cuomo’s Pathetic Attempt to Pretend He is Not Really Asking Bill Gates to Reinvent Education | Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Thanks for this article. Please consider signing this petition and sharing it with others. Post it on your blog if you are OK with that.

    Bill Gates Get Out Of New York And Stay Out of Education!
    https://www.change.org/p/governor-of-new-york-bill-gates-get-out-of-new-york-and-stay-out-of-education

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