State Education Commissioner John King had a rough week. Senator John Flanagan, Chairman of the New York State Senate Education Committee, has been hosting a series of public hearings on the Regents Reform Agenda. King, along with members of the Board of Regents, have been vigorously defending recent missteps by the State Education Department including the premature roll-out of the Common Core aligned tests last spring and the implementation of questionable curriculum modules this fall.
The conversations heated up last week when Senator Joseph Griffo (47th Senate District) began hosting open town hall style meetings and inviting King to speak. A meeting in Whitesboro on Monday night was attended by over 1,000 passionate critics of the commissioner and King faced a constant barrage of questions and attacks. Here’s a link to the front-page article from the Rome Sentinel: http://romesentinel.com/news?newsid=20131008-142008
Thursday, King attended an open forum in Spackenkill (near Poughkeepsie) hosted by the NYS PTA. The attendees were relentless in their critique of the commissioner who, usually cool under fire, began to stumble as he struggled to defend the new state curriculum. He was even flustered by a series of attacks on his decision to send his own children to a Montessori school in Albany.
After Thursday’s embarassment of a public meeting, the NYS PTA announced Friday that they were cancelling the remaining town hall forums scheduled this month in Garden City, Clifton Park, Williamsville, and New Hartford.
Critics have been calling for accountability at SED for the last two years. It should come as no surprise that local union leaders and parents are frustrated with the gross mismanagement demonstrated by King’s administration. In January of 2012, this blogger called for the politicians in Albany to address the runaway obsession with factory testing in our schools. In April of last year, members of the Buffalo teachers union walked out on an address by King in protest of his handling of the new teacher evaluation system. At that same meeting, I publicly called for King’s resignation and asked our state union leaders to do the same. And earlier this year I extended that challenge to our local representatives, asking them to step up and demand transparency and accountability from the bureaucrats at SED.
So, after the epic public relations failure that unfolded in Whiteboro and Spackenkill this week, is it possible that the politicians and bureaucrats in Albany will come to view Commissioner King as a political liability? Has his ability to effectively manage the state’s reform agenda been so compromised that Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch, Governor Cuomo, and NYSUT President Ianuzzi will finally call for King’s resignation? If so, they’ll be able to put the disaster of the King years behind them and begin to refocus on the real challenges our schools face. If they choose the status quo, if they choose to continue with business as usual, then their silence will be a deafening reminder of their disconnect with the parents, teachers, and kids in New York’s schools.