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Governor’s Plan to Appoint School Czars to Takeover Struggling Schools and Districts is Based upon Flimsy Evidence and Represents Unprecedented State Overreach
(Long Island, NY) Today Governor Cuomo sent a letter to Chancellor of the Board of Regents Meryl Tisch regarding his proposal for a state takeover of struggling schools. The state takeover legislation is part of his budget proposal and one of the issues that the Governor is trying to force the legislature to adopt by threatening to withhold any school aid increase if they do not. The plan as outlined in the legislation has several key components. The state would appoint a “receiver,” commonly referred to as a “school czar” in Massachusetts. These school czars will most likely be private consultants who are profiting off the state takeover. The schools czar would have absolute powers over a school or school district. This includes the power to disregard the locally elected school board, the school superintendent, parents, voters and educators. The school czar can fire all of the teachers and staff in a school, turn a school into a charter school or insist on other top down, dramatic actions. The only power the school czar would not have is to provide funding for necessary programs. The governor’s letter to Chancellor Tisch emphasizes that his proposal would include turning the schools into community schools to by providing wrap around services, but there is not budget to support these services. The Governor cites the outcomes in one single school as evidence to support this unprecedented state powers over local schools. There is a wealth of evidence showing that top down takeovers do not work and that the key to improving struggling schools is engaging parent, teacher and community buy-in to develop a bottom up plan and vision for school improvement, combined with adequate resources to implement the needed programs.
“Governor Cuomo’s plan is an unprecedented overreach by the Governor to control local schools and is based on flimsy research from one school in Massachusetts,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “The Governor would hire private consultants who would serve as school czars to takeover local schools and districts. They would the power to fire all the teachers, shut down schools, disregard the local school board and override voters. His approach is a recipe for disaster. The research is very clear across the country. The way to improve low performing schools is to make a locally designed plan that meets the particularly of students and a community. This requires building trust among parents, students, educators and the community and it requires investment in successful approaches like full-day pre-K, high quality curriculum and extended school days. The Governor’s plan will fail and should be replaced by a plan that engages all stakeholders to design a locally supported successful school improvement plan.”