Opine I will

I am a retired elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

A letter to Governor Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I read your state of the union speech today. Sorry I didn’t watch it live, but I was too busy teaching my 6th grade class. I remember some of the wonderful speeches your father used to give; unfortunately you have fallen far short of his legacy.

You claimed that last year,” we were divided as a state: Upstate and Downstate, millionaires and the middle class, gay and straight, Democrats and Republicans.” Yet you failed to mention that we are still divided and that you contributed to our split as well. Last year when you cut education funding while refusing to tax millionaires yet yesterday you called that an “unfair tax code.” The damage was done. School districts across the state had massive cuts and many were forced to lay off teachers. Gay and straight and Democrats and Republicans are still divided. The schism still exists; please don’t pretend with your catchy sound bites. It worked for your father it falls flat for you.

You proudly stated that, “After 20 years of failure, we enacted the state’s first-ever property tax cap.” Did you ever think that there were legitimate reasons why a tax cap failed to be enacted for 20 years? Perhaps you should take a look at the many municipal governments that have already declared that they cannot stay within that arbitrarily decided upon 2% cap you have imposed. They can easily override this cap with a mere majority rule in their case. School districts, with many fixed costs are now being forced to lay off many teachers in order to meet this new dictum. In order to override they need a 60% majority of all voters to override. 59.999% is not enough! Is this the democracy that was taught to you by your father? I dare say I don’t think so. What ever happened to local control? If a majority of voters choose to fully fund their schools to whatever extent they vote for it should be their right. Isn’t home rule valid in New York State anymore?

You now proudly exclaim that you will be the sole lobbyist for students.  How grandeur of you! Every teacher in the Empire State is a lobbyist for their students every single day. We lobby for books, we lobby for resources, we lobby for safe schools, we lobby for real curriculum, we lobby for services for those who need them, we lobby for legislators that think of the children we educate first, we lobby every day! Your insulting statement was offensive to every student, teacher, and parent across the state!

Now you want to create a commission to reform education. Perhaps you and your advisors should look at recent reform movements. You want accountability. Aren’t you aware that districts across the state are already spending hundreds of thousands of vital funds on new flawed accountability plans, mandated by your charter school advocate Commissioner of Education? You appointed him, have you asked him?

You talk about schools being fiscally accountable. That’s what local school boards are for, and that’s why best government has always been local government. Perhaps you should reread the state’s Constitution and review the home rule section.  As you and your appointed commissioner run ramrod over our public school system, reread your father’s speeches on education. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.

Now it appears you want gambling across the state. Ignoring the social consequences seems to be the paradigm of some of your policy statements. Teachers supported you in your last election, we took a gamble, a huge gamble that the apple may have fallen close to the tree. We were wrong, that apple rolled down the hill and it seems to be rotten to the core. We took a gamble, we gambled on you and the dice we rolled turn to snake eyes that bit us.

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