About Claire McMahon

"Knowledge indeed is a desirable, a lovely possession." Thomas Jefferson

nycvoteThis is an important year for all New York City Public School teachers. The Bloomberg Era of being unable to work with the teacher’s union is finally coming to a close. Because New York City is one of the largest public school systems in the country, the new policies rolled out by the new mayor may well effect how other districts work. The upcoming election has become somewhat of a free-for-all with former congressman Anthony Weiner running. Weiner is best known for having to resign his position because of his Twitter scandal involving several young women.  Because he is running, the media has not focused on important issues for the city.   The teachers in New York City are anxiously awaiting November. That month will hopefully bring the beginning of positive change in attitude towards teachers with a mayor that looks at us with respect as opposed to an entity that needs to be challenged. There are a few main issues that are at the forefront of New York educators’ concerns.

Charter Schools and School Closures

Charter schools can sometimes be a source of conflict. In New York City the issues are compounded with public schools being forced to share building space with charter schools. This leads to complaints about the mixing of populations and unfair division of space with areas such as the gym and cafeteria. Charter schools are also accused of not taking in special education and ESL students. Closing failing and struggling schools has been Mayor Bloomberg’s way of “fixing” the problem. In reality, it has been his way of firing tenured teachers without due process. If the school doesn’t exist anymore, how can you give jobs to “failing” teachers?

The candidates have different positions:   Bill deBlasio would like to charge rent to the charter schools that are sharing space with public schools. In addition, he would like to end the current trend of closing low performing public schools and therefore lessen the availability of real estate for future charter schools. Christine Quinn is a big supporter of charter schools and would like to see the number of these schools increase.  William Thompson is endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers even though he is a supporter of charter schools. Even with this endorsement from Mr. Thompson, he makes it clear that he does not want to close schools in order to make more room for charter schools. Mr. Weiner is not always upfront with his opinions on charter schools. He does not support charter schools paying rent and instead talks about how he would like to be a mediator between charter schools, parents and teachers. It seems to be he is not addressing the issue full on.

High Stakes Testing

The debate between teacher evaluations and the link with high stakes testing has  been a debate across the country. Mr. deBlasio claims that he will make a major change to NYC Public Schools by taking away the current report card system. Currently, schools are given a letter grade and a report card at the end of each year. He seems to think that by taking away this system that schools will be forced to focus on curriculum. He implies that schools only teach to the test. Ms. Quinn also speaks about rampant teaching to the test. She would approach the testing issue by going to Albany and advocating for alternate forms of evaluation such as portfolios. She also does not agree with tying teacher pay to testing results. Mr. Thompson claims that teacher merit pay tied to the test would be a possibility to explore. The thought of merit pay can be scary when one thinks of how unreliable testing data can be.

Teacher Evaluations

This is one question that most candidates do not want to answer. They seem to be trying to strike a balance between catering to parent voters and teacher voters. Mr. Thompson has even offered differing opinions about the matter. He began by saying that teacher evaluations should not be tied to student testing and then went back to say that the evaluation plan that was created by Albany was confusing and would not be easy to implement. It is worth noting that at the time of these statements the UFT had not yet chosen a candidate to endorse. Ms. Quinn made mention that a teacher evaluation should include multiple sources (including student feedback). I can only imagine the bias that some students would include in their feedback, especially when it comes to older students. Mr. Weiner went the route of mentioning how he would work with the teachers as opposed to how Mr. Bloomberg has handled things. He then goes on to say that 5% of the evaluations could include student testing.

For the sake of brevity I did not include every candidate running for the post. If not every candidate was mentioned in each heading it was because they either have not commented on the issue or I was unable to find evidence of such. No matter who gets elected this will definitely be a game changer for public school teachers in New York City. Though most teachers look forward to Mr. Bloomberg being out of the picture, I hope that the new mayor will turn out to be change for the better. New York City needs a mayor that will work with the teacher’s union and will work to improve schools without the pressure of testing. I can only hope that this will come true this winter.

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