On Tuesday, during his daily briefing, Governor Cuomo announced that New York would be working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine education” in New York State. There are, the governor said, important lessons to be learned from our move to remote learning, both to make sure we are prepared the next time we are faced with a situation like this one and to help make public education better overall. (The video may start about 10 seconds before he starts talking about education.)
No one, of course, denies either the need to be better prepared or the opportunity to make improvements that the experience we are currently going through provides. The governor, however, went quite a bit further than that when he asked this rhetorical question:
The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?
Governor Cuomo may have been speaking specifically about K-12, but we in higher education understand all too well the dangers to all levels of education that are inherent in that kind of thinking. In response, NYSUT immediately put out the following statement:
NYSUT believes in the education of the whole child. Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process — which is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls and socially distant in-person meetings. If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state. Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs. And let’s recognize educators as the experts they are by including them in these discussions about improving our public education system for every student.
And the next day, Governor Cuomo walked back his words:
As NYSUT’s Member Action Center put it, You were heard.
If you’re not familiar with NYSUT’s Member Action Center (MAC), we encourage you sign up. It offers an easy way to contacting your legislators about the issues that are important to us as union members and as educators. Through the MAC, for example, NYSUT members have sent letters urging more funding for SUNY community colleges, more funding for SUNY and CUNY overall, and passage of an enhanced maintenance of effort SUNY & CUNY.
NYSUT’s voice—though it’s actually a chorus of voices from across the state—makes a different. Signing up for the Member Action Center is one way you can add your voice to the chorus.