Thank you, Governor Cuomo! Now, Let’s Work Together. | Mona Davids

In his “State of the State” address, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared war on special interests who try to dominate public education in New York State.  The Governor made it clear that his administration will not tolerate the sobering reality that 70% of our children are not reading, writing or doing math at grade level, and that students of color in New York City, for example, have been condemned to low-performing – actually failing — schools for too long.

Governor Cuomo’s insistence that everyone face the inconvenient truth about education is welcome news to parents, and we say “Thank you, Governor Cuomo, and welcome to the struggle!  We need your help.”  On our own, parents have had to go to court to fight bad laws because we can’t get the State legislature to change them.  That is what our lawsuit Davids vs. New York is all about.  Our children don’t benefit when ineffective, abusive or predatory teachers are in classrooms – and the data supports our position.

It is unfortunate, but true, that the teachers’ unions have been opposed to essential changes in the education laws.  Their unwillingness to put children first has hurt our children and even hurt the unions’ standing with the public and their elected officials.  But they are organized and have money, and money trumps children in politics.  Governor Cuomo’s commitment to hold teachers accountable for their own performance is a very welcome change.  He is seeking to reform the laws that “govern” teachers, including dismissal procedures, outrageous protections, and tenure itself.

The Governor is also promoting other noteworthy changes.  Increasing the number of charter schools, for example, acknowledges the fact that parents want a choice when the local zoned schools are not doing their job.  The Governor needs to hold charter schools as accountable for their performance and practices as he holds district public schools, however.  As parents, we remain concerned that legislation requiring parent associations in every charter school – legislation that we helped to pass – has yet to be enforced.

And we, parents with the greatest stake in the education system, remain on the outside looking in.  We have no “seat at the table” to help make things better.  Governor Cuomo has shaken things up, but, with the teachers upset and afraid — but well-funded — and with the even better-funded charter school lobby smiling benignly, how do we move forward?  Yes, Governor, we want you to be the Number 1 advocate for children in New York State, but how will you help parents for real?

Through Davids vs. New York, the New York City Parents Union has tried to create an opportunity for students, parents, teachers, administrators and legislators to come together and create a better system that elevates teacher quality, raises the prestige of the teaching profession as a whole, and promotes access to a sound education for all students.  Now, we need Governor Cuomo to incorporate the independent parent voices.  We want to work with other stakeholders to end the bad laws and create better ones.

The Governor should convene an Education Working Group that includes three independent parents from upstate and downstate, a Regents representative, the Legislature’s two Education Committee chairs, the School Boards Association, a teachers union representative, and an outside education expert.  Every issue should be on the table, from tenure to school district consolidation.

Governor Cuomo knows he has a fight on his hands with the special interests, but he will have allies — independent parents whose only agenda is providing all children with equal access to a quality education.  So, Governor Cuomo, let’s work together!


Mona Davids is a Bronx resident and the president of the NYC Parents Union. She and her daughter are plaintiffs in Davids vs New York, which challenges the State’s teacher dismissal statutes.

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