Amid the usual back-to-school shuffle this week, something else was brewing: a rally on Thursday that was equally a protest against Common Core as well as a campaign pit stop for Zephyr Teachout, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.
On the lawn in front of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, approximately a hundred anti-Common Core, pro-Teachout protestors gathered to voice their opposition to Andrew Cuomo’s education policies, and by extension, his governorship. Organized by Rockville Centre principal Carol Burris, speakers included Teachout, Lace to the Top’s Kevin Glynn, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association President Beth Dimino, Long Island Opt-Out’s Jeanette Deuterman, Adam Yuro, the past president of the Bedford Teachers Association, and Michael Lillis, president of the Lakeland Teachers Association.
These speakers have been working this circuit for over a year, voicing their accusations about the Common Core initiative, and everything from funding to the lack of scholarship and research behind it to the hours of instructional time lost to testing and prepping for the high-stakes standardized state tests – linked to what they describe as curriculums that lack empirical evidence, thereby invalidating results, setting kids up to fail, and for using these scores to rate teachers’ performance.
Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, who was named 2010 Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators’ Association of New York State, spoke passionately about her love of “a wonderful institution called public education,” that she believes had been under attack by the Cuomo administration.
“But because of our collective voices, things are starting to turn around,” she said into a microphone, as supporters held signs that said “Dump Cuomo” and “Vote Teachout and Wu.” “One of the reasons I believe they are starting to turn around is because of courageous people like Zephyr Teachout.”
Burris painted the candidate as someone “courageous” who “stands firmly for public education and its values.”
An invigorated Teachout, a Fordham Law professor, took to the mic to decry the “old boys’ network” she says that makes up New York’s highest office. “People are very excited about the idea of the first woman governor of the state of New York!” she boomed.
She went on to describe how both she and running mate Tim Wu are “both products of public education.” She spoke of her early years as a teacher’s aid in a special education class and about how that experience helped to shape her views on education policy.
“I will tell you that children thrive when you have small class sizes, when teachers are trusted, and when every child can be seen for who they are,” Teachout professed. “And schools and children suffer when you have overcrowded classes, when teachers are treated like suspects, and when children are treated as if they are made of the exact same material. I am so proud to be here with kids, teachers, parent, and community members to say I think we need to pay the six billion dollars that we owe to our schools back to our schools.”
Her speech was met with robust applause and shouts of “Cuomo Out! Teachout In!” overtook the crowd.