An Open Letter from Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lt. Governor to New York Teachers

An Open Letter from Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lt. Governor to New York Teachers

An Open Letter from Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lt. Governor to New York Teachers - Green Party

Dear Teachers: 

The battle for the future of our schools is heating up. On one side are powerful and wealthy figures who see our public schools as a potential source of profit. On the other side are parents, teachers, and students who are fighting to defend and improve our public schools. 

We are candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor who have consistently stood on your side of that struggle.  

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party's candidate for Governor, is a teamster and union activist from Syracuse. Howie has a long record of standing up for public education, for fully funded, desegregated schools, and for supporting our teachers.  

Brian Jones, the Green Party's candidate for Lieutenant Governor, taught elementary school grades in New York City’s public schools for nine years. As an educator, he fought charter schools, school closings, and the spread of high-stakes standardized testing. In the course of these battles, he co-founded a new caucus in the United Federation of Teachers called The Movement of Rank and File Educators and co-narrated the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. 

This month, delegates from all over the state will gather at the New York State United Teachers Local Presidents Endorsement Conference in Albany. We sincerely hope that the NYSUT delegates will vote to endorse our campaign. 

Education is a basic human right. That’s why we support expanding public education from early childhood through college and support statewide universal full day Pre-K and Kindergarten with certified and unionized educators. 

Our children are not standardized and their brilliance cannot be quantified. We want schools that nurture all of their gifts and abilities, not just their ability to read to and to write. We want classrooms that promote wonder, make-believe, humor, joy, genuine inquiry, and fun in all of our schools for all of our children. The more we recruit their intrinsic interest in learning, the better the results will be, however we measure them. 

The current Governor, Andrew “1%” Cuomo, has gone out of his way to attack public education. He supports the corporate privatization of our schools by pushing high-stakes testing linked to the Common Core Standards to evaluate schools, students, and teachers, undermining teachers' professional autonomy, and favoring private charter schools over public schools. 

We want assessments written by educators, not corporate contractors. We want to end the role of using testing to punish schools, students or teachers.  We support community (parent, teacher, student) control of schools, with adequate resources to write their own curricula. We need schools that respect, nurture, and support the cultures and languages in our communities. 

We oppose Cuomo's push to promote privatization in higher education by granting private corporations unfettered access to SUNY and CUNY resources. We support returning to free tuition for CUNY students and extending it to SUNY and community college students. 

We are the only candidates who have spoken out against the lawsuit seeking to overturn tenure in New York State. Teacher tenure was enacted nationwide more than a century ago to protect academic freedom and to stop the firing of teachers based on political and partisan concerns. Tenure establishes and preserves a highly qualified teacher workforce in our schools, and helps create a stable (i.e., not revolving) community of adults in schools. 

Policies supported by the Democratic and Republican parties in this state are creating a dual school system: separate and unequal. Cuomo's high-stakes testing regime is failing the underfunded schools and teachers of low-income children in order to privatize the schools and downgrade the teaching profession. This agenda won’t do anything to improve education for our students who have the greatest needs. It just punishes them for having those needs.  

The Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor are not calling for the resignation of New York’s Education Commissioner, John King. As Cuomo’s main accomplice in the corporate takeover of our schools, we think it’s time to show him the door. 

The Democratic and Republican candidates have not responded to the recently released report that found New York’s schools to be the most segregated in the nation. We believe that challenging the web of institutional racism that has brought us to this point requires dismantling unfair housing policies, unfair zoning, and unfair school funding formulas. We agree with those who argue that the so-called racial “achievement gap” is really a “resource” gap. That resource gap is rooted in both inequitable school funding and high rates of community poverty that is concentrated in disadvantaged schools and school districts by double segregation of race and class. We don’t want to merely re-shuffle existing resources, we need to expand the resources available to all schools by returning to a more progressive tax structure. 

Cuomo has consistently defied the courts' orders to fully fund a constitutionally required sound basic education. The cumulative shortfall on Foundation Aid is now over $9 billion. Too many communities are forced to increase regressive property taxes, and to cut staffing and essential programs. The property tax cap law should be repealed and state aid to schools increased. 

Cuomo's hostility to public school teachers and unions and his support for charter schools must be understood in light of the large campaign contributions he has received from wealthy hedge fund managers who favor privatization and who like the fact that most charter schools are non-union. The last financial filing revealed that his average individual contributor gave him $7,723. Cuomo is truly a governor for the 1%.  

New York is one of the wealthiest states in all of world history. All of our schools can have what they need: small class sizes, and well-rounded, culturally responsive curricula, and well-compensated educators. 

Our campaign is dedicated to defending and improving our public schools. We sincerely hope you will support Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor of New York State. 

Thank you, 

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Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones

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  • commented 2014-10-29 20:32:37 -0400
    As the wife of an educator, I see firsthand how difficult the changes that have been forced upon the educational system have been for administrators, teachers and parents and most importantly students. I believe that there is a huge movement generated by the 1% of our population that is going to cost all of us more than we can imagine. Waiting until it is upon us in full force is waiting way too long. It’s time to show those who desire greed and power more than they desire freedom and genuine concern for our fellow human beings, that we are not ignorant. We are not going to allow this to happen without a fight. The only candidate I see who as been forthright and honest, who has said what others refuse to say is Howie Hawkins.
  • commented 2014-10-29 17:08:24 -0400
    I would like to thank Mr. Hawkins for sharing this letter. It gave me insight into you and your candidates favorable views on educators today. I believe as governor you would learn that the common core is not the enemy of education. It is the corporate private developers of curriculum whom have changed the purpose of the common core standards as they develop curriculum. This type of curriculum needs to be done by educators who will use it in the classroom. They also need to be in on the developing of tests which should not be used to punish students or teachers but to evaluate whether students are meeting the standards or not. IF the majority of students are not meeting the standards, then we have to determine if the standards need to be revamped or whether new curricula needs to be developed. However, I would hope that rather than dump the standards (which are designed to theoretically teach students the meaning behind anything they are learning) that we review these standards. We need to determine as an education community whether common core standards meet the education needs of students so they can compete in a global economy. If they do not, then they need to be revised, not scrapped.
  • commented 2014-08-04 08:58:02 -0400
    John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year (1991), has written a lot on education reform, including in his book “The Underground History of American Education” (available for reading online). I’d suggest reading what he has to say and thinking deeply about it. He draws a big distinction between “schooling” and “education”. He also contrasts what “public” means in “public school” compared to “public library”, such as asking whether public librarians closely monitor what specific individuals are reading in the library and how well they comprehend it? See also the movie “The War on Kids”, a documentary on common harmful practices in public education in America, including documenting widespread drugging of children so they are more docile. Another person worth reading is Chris Mercogliano, who headed the Albany Free School for 30 years, and who has a lot to say about the true meaning of “Democratic Education” as well as proven alternatives to drugging unruly children. The writings of people like John Holt and Pat Farenga are also worthy of study on alternative education.

    I’m all for spending lots of money on education for everyone and helping out families with children in all sorts of ways. We should invest in the next generation, especially in areas of civic education, personal growth, and useful skills. The question is how best to go about doing that?