Sunday, March 5, 2017

We March For Education Justice by Luz Christina Ramirez Mooney

* Speech originally presented at the March For Education in Kingston, New York on March 4th, 2017

Greed and hate are evil and destructive forces, eating away at our nation today. But we have gathered here, to make it clear, that we will not turn a blind eye to what we see and we will stand up and fight back!
And although Governor Cuomo has been sounding real progressive on some issues, as of late. When it comes to public schools he has done far more harm than he's done any good. In fact, He and Trump, are one and the same. They both see the public school system as a monopoly, a business, that must be privatized. They want to replace our beloved buildings with private for profit charter schools and give millions away for religious vouchers.

One of the tools Cuomo will use to complete his evil plan is the Education Transformation Law passed in 2015 in which a school's evaluation is based 50% on unreliable high stakes tests. We must demand that our elected officials amend this law to stop the test and punish policies that are a detriment to all of our children.
High stakes testing is used to reinforce the false narrative that public schools are failing. That same false narrative is most damaging to our communities of color. Schools in these communities have been purposefully and grossly underfunded for years and it's not right! When agendas like those of Cuomo and Trump are being forced forward, our children are collateral damage and we can't allow it to continue. Our children are far too valuable to us.

Ten years ago, the foundation formula was implemented to help our students most in need. This year Cuomo’s executive Budget plan seeks to eliminate that foundation formula. This action is an unprecedented assault on our students of color, students in poverty, and newly immigrant students. On top of that,  for the past decade, this formula has been ignored. Leaving districts with millions owed.
  • Kingston School District is owed over 2.9 million in foundation aid.
  • Saugerties over 1.8 million.
  • New Paltz almost 2 million.
  • Poughkeepsie over 4 million.
  • Catskill over 4.5 million.
And that's just a few of the districts around us. When we look at NYS as a whole, 4.3 Billion dollars have been hijacked from our kids!
Millions that could support the practices and environments which we know foster real learning; like small class sizes, access to art, music, athletics, and enrichment programs. Millions that could support students learning English for the first time, while mastering academic content at the same time.  And yet millions are wasted on private state tests that have been proven to be unreliable.
Why does Cuomo continue his war on our public school children?
Cuomo's test and punish policies are abusive to my 10 year old autistic son, and are of no benefit at all, to my 12 year old daughter who excels, academically.
When tests are designed to show 70% of our kids are NOT college or career ready, what is left for them?

These reasons, among others, are why my children do not participate in state tests. This family proudly opts out of Common Core tests that do not enhance their learning or the learning experience of their peers. Ultimately these tests are just a tool used to destroy the public school system and continue to ignore the real issues of poverty.
Public schools are in a very dark time, which is why I am happy to see all of you willing to fight for what is good and right for ALL of our children. I call for you to continue to engage your school board members, your elected officials, your neighbors and relatives. Because the reality is, strong communities make strong public schools.
Some of you may wonder if your voice can really help turn the tide. I understand, I'm just a public school teacher and a concerned parent. I don't have a special title, I'm not a union president, or executive, but I know my voice can make a difference. All of our voices make a difference and I know when I use mine, others are more likely to use theirs.
I'm here sending a message to all of my colleagues in NYS and across the nation.
Your community needs you
Your students need you
Now is the time.
Get involved. Be informed.
There are some great organizations out there;
  • Your local union
  • New York State Allies for Public Education,
  • Citizen's Action
  • Alliance for Quality Education,
  • United Opt Out,
and one that I hold dear to my heart: BATs.
When it comes down to it, it'll take all of us, parents, students, schools board members, administrators, teachers...every single one of us...that's how we protect our children..that's how we protect our schools....Because whose schools are they? Our schools!

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