Letters (April 23-30)

mailTrustee: Opt-out comments misquoted on social media

Since everything I learned I did not learn on Facebook hence my lack of use or need for such social media sites — I did learn from some excellent educators as I continue to challenge an educate myself today — a few excellent skills amazingly include objective listening, reiterate a conversation accurately, conducting my own research, and a seemingly seamless ability to multitask—   So with that being said I have been misquoted on society’s own version of Wikipedia known as Facebook. All I ask if that if you’re going to quote me please do it correctly…

“I want to start this part of what I have to say tonight with assuring the parents here that are stating their children were forced to complete harder exams claims are incorrect- the instruction provided to your child was not a test. I feel the need to address the elephant in the room.

“What baffles my mind is that we are even asking the question should our kids test? We have always had testing- when I was in school it was the CTBS test and before that was the Iowa test…on those test days we sat all day long and we tested. I’m not saying that was right but those are the facts.

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“Objections do not have to do with effectiveness or legitimacy of the test or better yet the physiological impact on our children for taking these test. Instead the cold, hard facts are that the opt-out movement is driven by New York State teacher unions. I personal received several phone calls myself from automated systems urging me to opt my children out — who by the way tested today and said the test were easy — NYS teacher unions are encouraging civil disobedience and are shamelessly using our children to fight this battle for them. Our children should not be used as political weapons and instead should be taught respect and accountability. Our teachers operate in an occupation that is one of the most important and influential to our society! With that being said thank you to those of you who act professionally, for you deserve to be part of a child’s educational process. And for those educators that feel manipulating young children and encouraging them to challenge their parents, become civilly disobedient, I urge you to look up the word federal mandate, Google the effects a teacher has on today’s youth, perhaps reread your contract you may need a career change.

“I took an oath– regardless of what I personally feel about Common Core, how it was rolled out, federal funding, or testing…I swore to uphold the law so that is what I will do. Your fight isn’t here– your fight is in Albany! Democracy really does work, it takes time and may seem slow but it works! Your children or the children you teach are not pawns so stop using them that way! In my opinion those of you who have decided that accountability is not a teachable trait and that our children are best used as political pawns you should be ashamed of yourselves not me or any of us sitting here of which is said to us time and time again! We are doing our jobs! I have been to Albany for this very topic on my own time– have you?”

Again I ask if you’re going to quote me please do so accurately.

Angie Minew
Saugerties

The writer is a Saugerties School Board trustee.

 

County shouldn’t have to bail out schools

Each year, according to state law, counties in New York are responsible for paying uncollected school taxes in order to make schools whole and able to present another budget to home-owning school taxpayers. Ulster County has no direct say on school budgets or policies which ultimately impact the district’s tax bills. Yet the compound impact of labor contracts, new buildings and additional staff all can wind up on the county’s doorstep. That my friends is not right.

In 1994, that amount, excluding the city of Kingston, totaled 14.3 million dollars, with higher student enrollments. This year’s total, just twenty years later, is a staggering 23 million dollars. The message is quite clear that today’s property owners just can’t keep up with constant increases in school taxes. Those obligations were generated at the local school level. They should be met there. Officials say it’s the law, and they are prepared to pay, with borrowed money, if it comes to that. The county’s only legal recourse is to eventually seize properties for back taxes to be sold at auction. The root cause of all this is that property owner’s ability to pay in a declining economy has been outpaced by continued district spending in some localities.

I have always felt that laws are subject to change and our state legislators should revisit the rules that require one municipality to be held responsible for another’s obligations.

Robert Aiello
Saugerties

 

The state of Common Core

Common Core has been in place for four years in the State of New York, and it has not been smoothly implemented. Unfortunately, the National Governor’s Association, state legislators and the New York Board of Regents have been largely ineffective at creating their own innovative methods of instructional pedagogy. Consequently, the National Governor’s Association took the lead role in lobbying for the implementation of Common Core throughout the United States. As a result, 44 states and the District of Columbia have implemented Common Core as a method of instructional curriculum and assessment methodology for students and teachers. Pearson PLC, based in Great Britain, is the world’s largest educational testing and publishing company, and they are the creators and distributors of Common Core. Pearson’s all-inclusive instructional system inherent within Common Core also includes a testing program for student-teachers, an evaluative testing methodology for active teachers and an instructional program for teachers who do not test well on Pearson’s evaluative test. It was recently reported in Politico that Pearson generates $4 billion dollars of sales from their educational sales division in North America. Most of this money ultimately comes from American taxpayers!

Several editorials within the Albany Times-Union have disseminated viewpoints about Common Core and the inter-relationship between the legislative branch of government and the New York State Board of Regents. In an editorial on March 30, 2015, the paper advocates for new york state legislators to “…leave the task of setting standards for evaluating teachers and students to the people who are supposed to set educational policy in the state— the Board of Regents. This too: Before passing laws to undermine the Regents, legislators should get their facts straight.”

And on March 21, 2015, another editorial said that “legislators ought to take a full and fair look at Common Core—to set fact from fiction, and determine if it is indeed the right path. If it is, then commit, lead and build consensus, if not, then these politicians who have been stirring this pot better have one helluva plan B.”

There are several problems with these opinions expressed by the Times Union; however, when the Board of Regents is unable to innovatively create their own new methods of effective curriculum which results in the Board of Regents being over-reliant on Pearson and Common Core, and when state legislators like State Sen. George Amedore do not even bother to show up to vote for the election of State Regents Board Members.

Since Common Core attempts to enhance the critical thinking and problem solving skills of students, a more effective method of curriculum could include the introduction of mandatory critical thinking-based courses that focus on syllogism and logical proof statements in addition to courses that focus on the underpinnings of logic, argumentation and debate which are all taught in the field of rhetoric. This would be more effective than forcing “logic” into traditional core subjects like English, math, science and social studies.

Chris Allen
Ulster County legislator

 

NAFTA on steroids

On April 16, a bill was introduced in Congress that would “fast track” the approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). According to Food & Water Watch, “the TPP is being called NAFTA on steroids and has been negotiated in secret since 2008 among some of the world’s most powerful corporations. Leaked documents have revealed just how terrible this trade deal is, including a key provision that would allow companies to sue local governments over democratically enacted laws that they claim hurt their profits. That means that if the TPP goes through, local initiatives like GMO labeling laws and fracking bans could be challenged in international trade courts.”

It’s incredible how much is at stake here. Water from our tap could be more easily privatized or polluted. The safety of the food we eat is at risk— think about the possibility of standards being lowered for poultry inspections or seafood imports! Sensible food labeling would be thrown out the window. In developing nations, human and labor rights would take second place to corporate rights.

Besides posing a danger to our food, water, environmental and labor standards, TPP undermines the basic principles of democracy. Corporate special interests are writing the deal; our elected representatives and the public have been kept in the dark. In New York, we could be sued over our fracking ban in an international trade court. This is already happening to Quebec under NAFTA guidelines!

Lobbyists are pushing hard for the Fast Track bill to speed up the approval process of TPP, so it’s very important for us to take action today. Information on TPP, and how to tell your congressional representatives to oppose the Fast Track bill can be found under Issues/Trade at www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

Jess Mullen
New Paltz Climate Action, New Paltz