Aug. 11, 2014

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Educators shout, scold, shred in privatization protest

uupdate 8-11-14

Watch local news coverage of the rally - WNYT, Albany

Watch a UUP-produced video of the rally

Chanting “Public ed, not private profits,” hundreds of unionists sent a strong message to so-called education reformers and big business trying to profit from public education.

More than 500 unionists—including more than 50 UUPers—waved signs that said “Speak up for students” and “SED: Stop sabotaging student teachers” during a 90-minute rally Aug. 11 on the steps of the State Education Department in Albany.

Speakers castigated Pearson, a corporation with a $32.8 million testing contract with SED. Pearson is also the company that grades all four of the state’s teacher certification exams, including the educative Teacher Performance Assessment for student teachers.

NYSUT President Karen Magee shook a copy of the state’s contract with Pearson in the air before tearing out a page and running it through a paper shredder. Other speakers, including UUP President Fred Kowal, also shredded pages of the contract.

“Public schools do not belong to corporations,” Magee said. “Public schools do not belong to the privateers who want to make a buck off of students.”

“Pearson created exams and they called it education,” said Kowal. “This is not education. It’s more like 'ignoration.'”

AFL-CIO backs cause

Mario Cilento, president of the New York AFL-CIO, pledged his union’s support as NYSUT and UUP stand against wealthy privateers attempting to privatize and profit from public education while robbing teachers and workers of their rights.

“You are not alone,” he said. “Your fight is our fight.”

Several speakers reserved some ire for former CNN journalist Campbell Brown, now head of the Partnership for Educational Justice, an education reform group that filed a July 28 suit challenging New York’s teacher tenure laws.

Others, such as Shenendehowa Central School District Superintendent Oliver Robinson, urged SED to simply “let schools be schools.”

Halfway through the rally, four NYSUT members dressed in suits, smoking cigars and tossing fake million dollar bills into the air, led a fifth member wearing a top hat and a red “Pearson” sash to the podium. He taunted the crowd, which responded with loud boos.

The rally closed with unionists hoisting hundreds of flashlights while they sang the traditional gospel song “This Little Light of Mine.”

“We will stand tall, we will stand united, and the students of New York will be better for it,” Magee said.

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