Tag Archives: teacher tenure

Albany and The Art of Compromise: How Will the “Irreconcilable Differences” Be Resolved? (Or Maybe Not!)

Politics is the art of compromise, no matter the differences, the passions, the antagonisms, the vast majority of issues end in some kind of compromise. Electeds constantly have the proverbial “finger in the air,” testing the winds of public opinion. Yes, occasionally there are issues that require an “up or down” vote, issues that defy compromise: choice, death penalty and marriage equality are examples, and, yes, frequently the path is agonizingly slow.

Partisans on both sides drum up their troops: send emails, tweets with the proper hashtags, office visits, speaking out at public meetings, all try to tilt the final vote to their side of the street.

There are times when we wish Aztec Heart Sacrifice was an option.

Holding the still beating heart of your opponent over your head as you scream in victory is a fitting ending, although frowned upon by the officialdom.

Governor Cuomo, in his State of the State message outlined a litany of “reforms,” in reality political revenge against teacher unions that failed to support him, or, supported his opponent, and jumping on board the richly funded (de)form train.

The New York State fiscal year begins April 1, if the budget is not in place the state’s financial rating drops and the governor’s approval rating takes a hit. Legislators won’t get paid and in order for the state to continue to function “continuing resolutions” and “executive orders” drive the state budget process. The governor ends up incrementally getting what he could not get in the orderly budget process, although at a political cost.

The political calculus is at a very high level. The two legislative houses, the 150-seat Assembly dominated by the downstate Democrats and the 63-seat Senate led, by a hair, by primarily suburban Republicans have to negotiate settlements on hundreds of issues that are included in the budget.

Members in both houses are already deeply engaged in internal discussions about crafting compromises, trade-offs (“logrolling”) and drawing “lines in the sand” that may or may not be flexible.

A prime example: the property tax cap versus rent control.

The Cuomo “Opportunity Agenda” is a 500 plus page listing of hundreds of initiatives, the education section begins on page 218, not exactly at the top of the agenda.

Let’s take a look at some of the proposals:

“…the current teacher discipline system is broken … [its] costly and time consuming …physical and sexual abuse [accusations] teacher should be suspended without pay …”

Defending members who are accused of physical or sexual misconduct is not popular with the public, or for that matter, with legislators. In the last contract the UFT and the Department of Education negotiated changes in teacher discipline that only apply to teachers in New York City. Commissioner King called the provisions, “A model or the state,” The provisions are embedded in the collective bargaining agreement,

The parties agree that certain types of alleged misconduct are so serious that the employee should be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary process. Serious misconduct shall be defined as actions that would constitute:

• the felony sale, possession, or use of marijuana, a controlled substance, or a precursor of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia as defined in Article 220 or 221 of the Penal Law, or
• any crime involving physical abuse of a minor or student ….), or
• any felony committed either on school property or while in the performance of teaching duties, or
• any felony involving firearms as defined in Article 265 of the Penal Law.

A tenured pedagogue who has been charged under the criminal law or under §3020-a of the New York State Education Law with an act or acts constituting sexual misconduct (defined below) shall be suspended without pay upon a finding by a hearing officer of probable cause that sexual misconduct was committed.

A rebuttable presumption of probable cause shall exist where the Special Commissioner of Investigations (“SCI”) substantiates allegations of sexual misconduct, or a tenured pedagogue has been charged with criminal conduct based on act(s) of sexual misconduct.

The UFT has also entered into agreements with the Department to expedite hearing, since the agreement cases have averaged 105 days from the preferment of charges to the decision of the arbitrator.

The State Education Department (SED) does not have clean hands. For years the SED has hassled with arbitrators over the rates, length of hearings and other administrative matters, the “solution,” the SED decided, was slowing the payment of arbitrators, from 3-4 months to 18-24 months, and, eventually managed to change the law. Many arbitrators quit the panel and some refused to issue decisions until they were paid,

Nearly half of the state arbitrators assigned to hear cases of teacher misconduct in New York City have quit in the last few weeks [June, 2012], creating a potential backlog of cases in an already cluttered system,.
Ten of the 24 arbitrators who handle city cases have walked off the job, primarily because they have not been paid. Some arbitrators contracted by the state are owed at least two years’ back pay. State Education Department officials did not deny that the arbitrators are owed back pay.

.
There are a small number of teachers who have been awaiting decisions for a few years.

Additionally, cases are costly because school districts use outside counsel at hourly rates, depending upon the location, hundreds of dollars an hour is a standard rate. SED could force school districts to use state attorneys housed in BOCES centers and bill the school district, the cost would be substantially lower.

As of this date both sides are adamant, “fixing a broken system” on one side and “defending due process” on the other.

Another issue on the governor’s agenda is the recertification of teachers every five years.

“…recertify every five years much in the same way as attorneys …”

My lawyer friends smile, they can take “recertification” courses online [formally known as Continuing Legal Education], while on a cruise, at some fabulous resort, at worst, an annoyance, at best combining a vacation with some education. From the courts website:

Q] As an experienced attorney, what is my CLE requirement?
A] Experienced attorneys must complete a total of 24 accredited CLE credit hours during each biennial reporting cycle (the two-year period between your attorney registrations). At least 4 of these credit hours must be in the Ethics and Professionalism category. The remaining credit hours may be in any category of credit.
________________________________________

Q] What kinds of courses count toward my CLE requirement?
A] Experienced attorneys may earn CLE credit by attending CLE courses offered in the traditional live classroom format, or in nontraditional formats such as audiotapes, videoconferences, online, etc., so long as the CLE Board has accredited the provider to offer the course in the particular format, or the course is eligible for credit under New York’s Approved Jurisdiction policy.

If the “recertification” process is the same as “Continuing Legal Education,” this item does not, on the surface, appear to be an irreconcilable issue.

The Cuomo Opportunity Agenda also has a lengthy section on “Raising the Bar,” increasing the requirements for teacher candidates, requiring higher grade point averages in college to enter a teacher education program, evaluating teacher education programs based on the “grades” of graduates once they enter teaching, etc. However, just released research questions the need for any changes,

The academic capability of new teachers in New York City has risen over the past 15 years, new research shows. Between 1999 and 2010, the average SAT scores of New York City college students receiving their teaching certification increased by 18 percent, and the SAT scores of entering teachers in New York City improved by 49 percent, according to the study published in Educational Researcher.

The test score gains were particularly pronounced among teachers hired to work in high-poverty schools, which resulted in a substantial reduction of the academic ability gap of teachers hired at affluent versus high-poverty schools.

If we continue to “Raise the Bar” are we going to reduce the applicant pool? What is the correlation between SAT scores and effective teaching? What will be the impact on candidates who were English language learners or came up the ladder from community colleges? Will “Raising the Bar,” in effect bar minority teachers? After the first year of the new required teacher certifications exams applicants of color and Hispanic applicants have significantly lower pass rates (Read here)

Another Opportunity Agenda idea is to increase the probationary period from the current three to five years.

Under current law school districts have the ability to extend tenure, with the agreement of the teacher, and, in New York City the practice is not uncommon. The major problem is not granting tenure too early, the problem is teacher attrition. 31.1% of teachers who were hired in 2009-10 quit by year four. 16.6% of teachers in 2012-13 have quit. School districts, and, in New York City, schools, have total discretion who to hire. New York State colleges, up to last year were pumping out far more teachers (except in ESL, bilingual and some science areas) than could be absorbed. This year the registration in schools of education declined sharply. The extension of the probationary period could discourage applicants and have very significant “unintended consequences.”

On a range of other issues the governor and teachers/parents are miles apart.

Over the next two months the battle for hearts and minds will resonate around the state. Will the governor’s approval rating dive? Will legislators line up with Cuomo or his opponents? Will the print, electronic and cyber media tilt for or against? Bus and train loads of foot soldiers will trek up or down the Hudson to walk the corridors of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) as the emissaries of the “three men in a room” exchange ideas and memorandum and actual texts of proposed legislation.

For many any compromise is a loss, the equivalent of planting the flag on the top of Mount Suribachi must be the outcome.

I expect that the outcome will be a very complex combination that to some extent can be viewed as a partial victory for all sides; although I do envy the Aztecs.

The American Enterprise Institute Tenure Report: Half-Truths, Mistruths and Outright Lies: The Campaign to Destroy Tenure is Ugly.

The American Enterprise Institute is a right wing “think tank,” with funding ties to the Koch Brothers and others in the anti-union, anti-public education sector. AEI conducts what I call “advocacy research,” what they call research simply supports their political positions. (Read more at Right Wing Watch here)

AEI released a report on teacher tenure in New York State, not surprisingly just in time for the anti-tenure lawsuit, you can follow the case – Wright v New York here and the specifics of the claims within the suit here.

The AEI “research” tracks teachers charged under the section 3020a of the New York State Education Law between 1997 and 2007. The purported research conveniently fails to include the sweeping changes in the law in 2012.

Tenured educators have the right to retain their positions and may only be terminated if there is “just cause” pursuant to Education Law §3020. The rules specifying the process for terminating a tenured educator are set forth in Education Law §3020-a. This process was significantly modified effective April 1, 2012, by Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2012.

The authors of the report simply roll back the clock to 2007 and ignore the sweeping changes to the law since 2007. The Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) governs the assessment of teacher performance in New York State. Within the law and regulations each school district negotiated a plan with the collective bargaining agent, the union. If a teacher receives an “ineffective” rating for two consecutive years, and, the school district complied with the requirement of an assistance plan in year two, the school district can prefer charges and seek the dismissal of the teacher.

The law states,

If a teacher receives an ineffective rating for a school year in
which the teacher is in year two status and the independent validator
agrees, the district may bring a proceeding pursuant to sections three
thousand twenty and three thousand twenty-a of this article based on a
pattern of ineffective teaching or performance. In such proceeding, the
charges shall allege that the employing board has developed and
substantially implemented a teacher improvement plan in accordance with
subdivision four of this section for the employee following the
evaluation made for the year in which the employee was in year one
status and was rated ineffective. The pattern of ineffective teaching or
performance shall give rise to a rebuttable presumption of incompetence
and if the presumption is not successfully rebutted, the finding, absent
extraordinary circumstances, shall be just cause for removal

AEI claims,

The fundamental purpose of § 3020-a hearings is not to determine whether a school’s charge of inadequate performance is justified, but rather to determine whether there is any possibility that an inadequately performing teacher can be rehabilitated.

The AEI claim is blatantly incorrect. The new law, section 3012c, is ignored by AEI, the language, “a rebuttable presumption of incompetence,” places the burden on the teacher.

Yes, if a tenured teacher receives an ineffective rating the school district must provide assistance to the teacher in year two, a perfectly reasonable requirement,


Incompetent teaching in and of itself is not grounds for dismissal under § 3020.

The law states that two ineffective ratings are “a rebuttable presumption of incompetence,” and, if the teacher cannot rebut the ineffective rating the hearing officer can assess discipline; if a teacher has had many years of effective service the hearing officer may fine or suspend a teacher and require retraining, or, dismiss the teacher. Each case has a separate fact pattern. Incompetent teaching is grounds for dismissal, although the hearing officer has a range of options.

Proof that there is no possibility of rehabilitating a teacher is a necessary condition for dismissal.

Rehabilitating the teacher is an option that the hearing officer may consider; but does not have to consider. Once again, each case is determined on the merits of the case.

The law is clear: the employer must make efforts to assist the teacher in “correcting the behavior that resulted in charges being brought …” Hearing officers have wide discretion: penalties range from a reprimand to a fine, a suspension to discharge. In addition the hearing officer may require specific types of retraining in addition to the penalties described.

the hearing shall be conducted before and by a single hearing
officer in an expedited hearing, which shall commence within seven days
after the pre-hearing conference and shall be completed within sixty
days after the pre-hearing conference.
The written decision shall include the hearing officer’s findings of fact on each charge, his
or her conclusions with regard to each charge based on said findings and
shall state what penalty or other action, if any, shall be taken by the
employing board. At the request of the employee, in determining what, if
any, penalty or other action shall be imposed, the hearing officer shall
consider the extent to which the employing board made efforts towards
correcting the behavior of the employee which resulted in charges being
brought under this section through means including but not limited to:
remediation, peer intervention or an employee assistance plan. In those
cases where a penalty is imposed, such penalty may be a written
reprimand, a fine, suspension for a fixed time without pay, or
dismissal. In addition to or in lieu of the aforementioned penalties,
the hearing officer, where he or she deems appropriate, may impose upon
the employee remedial action including but not limited to leaves of
absence with or without pay, continuing education and/or study, a
requirement that the employee seek counseling or medical treatment or
that the employee engage in any other remedial or combination of
remedial actions.

The fundamental purpose of § 3020-a hearings is to determine whether a school’s charge of inadequate performance is justified, and, further to determine whether there is any possibility that an inadequately performing teacher can be rehabilitated.

Charges fall into three categories: incompetence, now governed by section 3012c, misconduct on the job and misconduct away from the job. Serious felonies result in suspension without pay and discharge without a hearing if the teacher is convicted or pleads guilty. Typical misconduct in schools is accusations of corporal punishment, excessive absence and insubordination; a typical punishment is a fine.

Misconduct outside of school: DWI, minor drug arrest, shop lifting, public intoxication, etc., are punished by a fine and/or a suspension.

The AEI report is simply a hatchet job, a crude attempt to discredit a law prior to the first judicial hearing, if you lie loud enough and long enough the public, and, the judiciary may believe you.

Schools have wide discretion in hiring; teachers serve three year under probation, with the ability to extend probation for a fourth year, and, forty percent of teachers leave voluntarily within five years.

The lowest achieving schools have the least experienced teachers, the poor have little or no legal representation, hospitals in poor neighborhoods are understaffed and the doctors come from the lowest rated medical schools.

How do we discharge incompetent lawyers or doctors? We don’t.

The AEI report is disgraceful; poorly done, filled with half-truths, and exactly what we can expect from the amoral right.

It is sad that anyone believes that the path to highly effective schools is firing incompetent teachers. We all know there is a pool of highly effective teachers just waiting to fill their classrooms.

What is amazing is that so many smart people actually believe this canard.

Firing Teachers: How New York State Tenure Laws Protect Students and Teachers.

A NY Post editorial, commenting on the just-passed “safety net” that matches the impact of state tests on students to the impact on teachers by granting a two-year moratorium for both, sarcastically writes,

Great news for bad teachers. For kids, not so much. If you worry more about anxiety than achievement, you’ll never fire bad teachers.

Last year, only 1 percent of teachers outside Gotham were rated “ineffective” — even though 69 percent of third- through eighth-graders flunked their math and reading tests.

Doesn’t that suggest that maybe we don’t have enough teacher anxiety?

More than a year ago AFT President Randi Weingarten, at an Association for a Better New York (ABNY) breakfast called for a two year moratorium on the impact of the Common Core State Standards (Watch speech here). The audience was filled with the education and political glitterati, her speech was well-received; however, the Commissioner plowed ahead. The result was a disaster! A nascent parent unrest became a movement and the movement raced across the nation.

I’m curious how the Post will react when the State releases the current round of test scores – I am wagering that the scores will be significantly better. Will the Post praise teachers for suddenly becoming better teachers or will they trash the test and the Commissioner for jacking up the scores.

Test scores are zip code based while the new teacher evaluation system compares teachers to colleagues around the state teaching “similar” students. It is my understanding that the 1% “ineffective” were not concentrated in high poverty districts.

The state sets cut scores, on the first round of the new Common Core-based tests: the state set the cut score at a level that resulted in 69% of kids scoring “below proficient.” During the lengthy discussions that proceeded the cut score decision a few members of the Regents (namely, Cashin, Rosa, Phillips) asked that cut scores be set at the same level as the previous year and slowly be increased to acknowledge the “newness” of the test and the phase-in period for teachers to get up to speed on the new standards, unfortunately, to no avail.

60% of teacher assessment scores are based on principal observations using a state-approved rubric, 20% on a “locally negotiated” instrument and 20%, the controversial 20%, on growth in student test scores (about 70% of students do not take state tested subjects and use a Measure of Student Learning – usually a district-approved test at the end of the school year). At the end of the 2013 school year 51% of teachers scored “highly effective,” 40% “effective,” 8% “developing” and 1% “ineffective.”

This should not be surprising: teachers are trained at state-approved teacher training institutions, they are selected by schools frequently after teaching a demonstration lesson, they serve a three-year probationary period during which about 30% of teachers leave voluntarily within three years. Candidates and new teachers are screened numerous times before they achieve tenure, and, in New York City about a third has tenure extended for a year.

After achieving tenure teachers can still be dismissed pursuant to provisions of state law. There is enormous confusion regarding how the law provides for disciplining and firing teachers.

Section 3020a of Education Law, amended in 2012, sets forth the procedures for hearings against tenured teachers

Where charges of incompetence are brought based solely upon a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance of a classroom teacher or principal, the hearing shall be conducted before and by a single hearing officer in an expedited hearing, and shall be completed within sixty days after the pre-hearing conference.

Such charges shall allege that the employing board has developed and substantially implemented a teacher or principal improvement plan in accordance with subdivision four of section three thousand twelve-c of this article for the employee following the first evaluation in which the employee was rated ineffective, and the immediately preceding evaluation if the employee was rated developing. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance as defined in section three thousand twelve-c of this article shall constitute very significant evidence of incompetence for purposes of this section. Nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to limit the defenses which the employee may place before the hearing officer in challenging the allegation of a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance.

The hearing officer shall render a written decision within thirty days of the last day of the final hearing, or in the case of an expedited hearing within ten days of such expedited hearing

The written decision shall include the hearing officer’s findings of fact on each charge, his or her conclusions with regard to each charge based on said findings and shall state what penalty or other action, if any, shall be taken by the employing board. At the request of the employee, in determining what, if any, penalty or other action shall be imposed, the hearing officer shall consider the extent to which the employing board made efforts towards correcting the behavior of the employee which resulted in charges being brought under this section through means including but not limited to: remediation, peer intervention or an employee assistance plan. In those cases where a penalty is imposed, such penalty may be a written reprimand, a fine, suspension for a fixed time without pay, or dismissal. In addition to or in lieu of the aforementioned penalties, the hearing officer, where he or she deems appropriate, may impose upon the employee remedial action including but not limited to leaves of absence with or without pay, continuing education and/or study, a requirement that the employee seek counseling or medical treatment or that the employee engage in any other remedial or combination of remedial actions.

Summary of the timelines can be found here.

The SED Guidance document is here – see pages 25-27 for procedures to dismiss a probationary teacher

The lengthy and dense statute, Section 3012-c is here.

Most teacher discipline involves “constitutionally and statutory permissible reasons other than classroom performance without regard to APPR,” meaning a “bad act,” which the law goes on to define as “permissible reasons include, but are not limited to, misconduct, insubordination, time and attendance issues, or, conduct inappropriate for a teaching professional.” The cases include convictions or guilty pleas for crimes involving drugs, violence or sexual misconduct, for certain felonies the teacher is discharged without a hearing. In recent years posting on social media deemed inappropriate or inappropriate texts can constitute chargeable offenses.

If there are teachers with successive “ineffective” overall scores (60 + 20 + 20) on the APPR a school district may proffer charges pursuant to the provisions of Section 3012-c as described above.

We will find out in the fall after the second year scores are released, the scores are impacted by the modification just approved by the legislature.

In my view the tenure laws in New York State will survive any constitutional challenge – the Vergara Decision (Read full decision here) in California will not have legs in New York State.

And, I anxiously await the Post praising teachers for the leap in scores on the state tests – I won’t hold my breath!!

Vergara v California Strikes Down Teacher Tenure: Which State is Next? New York State?

The Los Angeles Superior Court sustained the appellants and ruled that the California teacher tenure laws violate the state constitution. (Read full text here)

The NY Times writes,

“Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students,” Judge Rolf M. Treu of Los Angeles Superior Court wrote in the ruling, “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

In his sharply worded 16-page ruling, Judge Treu compared the Vergara case to the historic desegregation battle of Brown v. Board of Education, saying that the earlier case addressed “a student’s fundamental right to equality of the educational experience,” and that this case involved applying that principle to the “quality of the educational experience.”

He agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that California’s current laws make it impossible to remove the system’s numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers, because the tenure system assures them a job essentially for life; that seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful; and that granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of the teacher’s skills.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan vigorously endorsed the decision.

“For students in California and every other state, equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher. The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students.”

The decision is not surprising, in a previous decision the California courts struck down the layoff of teachers in high needs schools by seniority, (“last in, first out”) ruling that the layoff rules disadvantage the neediest students by laying off the least senior teachers who were clustered in the highest needs schools.

The tenure decision, of course, is absurd. There are many states without any tenure laws and the absence of laws has no impact on pupil achievement. The state with the highest level of student achievement for high needs students, Massachusetts, is one of the highest unionized states. The “great teacher,” canard, that waiting in the wings are endless “great teachers” waiting to rush into the classrooms of bad teachers is a fantasy. In the real world we do not have precise methods of measuring teacher ability. If we were able to measure teacher performance two-thirds would fall in the middle of the bell curve – with about two percent at either end of the curve.

Virtually every expert warns that attempts to measure teachers by test scores are fraught with the possibility of errors. To remove tenure and allow principals and school boards to dismiss whomever they choose would unquestionably lead to discharge by favoritism, by race/ethnicity, by size, by anything the firing authority desires.

The teacher unions in California have aggressively fought legislative attempt to extend the probationary period beyond the current eighteen months and the discharge process is lengthy. Perhaps they should have negotiated changes; however that is hindsight.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which opposed the suit, has promised to fight the ruling in court, saying the decision overlooks a bigger problem: inadequate funding.

“While this decision is not unexpected, the rhetoric and lack of a thorough, reasoned opinion is disturbing,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

“[The judge] argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom. He is right on that,” Ms. Weingarten said. “But in focusing on these teachers who make up a fraction of the workforce, he strips the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are doing a good job of any right to a voice. … It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children.”

The lawsuit, funded by a Silicon Valley zillionaire is disrespectful to all teachers.

In high income schools and school districts kids do well, high test scores, does that mean the teachers are excellent? In high poverty schools kids struggle, that means the teachers are bad, of course not.

Does the decision mean that teacher tenure laws are in jeopardy across the nation? In New York State?

While teachers are uncomfortable with the NYS teacher evaluation law (APPR), as it turns out UFT President Michael Mulgrew was right.

Mulgrew has argued that the new teacher evaluation law actually protects teachers. The multiple measures law (60% supervisory judgment based upon an approved rubric, 20% student test scores and 20% a locally negotiated measure) produces a score and teachers are measured against other teachers who teach “similar” students. In the first year 51% of teachers scored “highly effective,” 40% “effective,” 8% “developing” and 1% “ineffective.”

Teachers with consecutive “ineffective” scores can be charged and undergo an expedited appeal process.

Using the courts to attack tenure in New York State would be frivolous.

Vergara will move through the California appellate courts and a year or two down the road the California Supreme Court will rule.

Vergara will not change one reality – if we superimpose a map of poverty by zip code and schools by lowest achievement the maps would be a perfect match.

50% or higher teacher turnover rates in high needs schools are commonplace, removing tenure will only discourage teachers who want to work in challenging settings. Yes, inadequate teachers should be discharged as a result of an orderly procedure with the decision made by an mutually agreed upon arbitrator in a timely fashion. Tenure is simply a due process protection.

Rather than benefiting students in high needs schools the decision will achieve the opposite.

As the economy continues to improve and onerous laws attacking teachers and the profession spread fewer and fewer of the “best and the brightest” will choose to teach.

And, loyal lifelong teacher Democratic voters are so angry, so disappointed that the chances of Republicans gaining control of the Senate only increases.

If Arne’s glee over Vergara antagonizes enough voters he may spend his last two years watching Republicans dismantle public education.