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Encouraging signs

New York Teacher

If Gov. Cuomo thought that his assault on educators earlier this year would be popular with the public, he miscalculated.

That is clear from a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing that voters statewide, by a margin of 54 to 31 percent, trust teachers’ unions more than the governor to improve education in the state.

Cuomo’s over-the-top, misguided attacks on public schools and teachers may have, in fact, backfired.

For years, corporate education reformers seemed to dominate the public dialogue about schools. They cast teachers and public education as failures and asserted that the only solutions were to close schools, fire teachers and double down on standardized testing.

That narrative is shifting, thanks in part to work by members of the UFT, NYSUT and other teachers unions around the country to educate the public about the destructiveness of these so-called reforms.

In the Quinnipiac poll, for example, New York voters overwhelmingly opposed the notion of paying teachers based on their students’ test scores — a form of merit pay that corporate reformers have championed.

The push to close schools is similarly running into resistance. New York City two years ago elected a mayor who ran against the Bloomberg administration’s rush to shutter schools. Now Mayor Bill de Blasio is, in contrast, offering support and resources to struggling schools.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a group of parents and activists drew national attention recently for staging a hunger strike to demand that the city reopen their neighborhood’s last open-enrollment high school, which was closed in the spring. In the face of negative publicity around the country, Chicago’s mayor agreed to reopen Dyett HS.

Some in the media also seem to be catching on. Around the country, a growing number of stories are appearing on the high rate of child poverty and the challenges that poses for schools.

We aren’t out of the woods yet. The billionaire backers of privatization are continuing their push, and public education in cities around the country — from Newark to Los Angeles — remains under threat.

But there are encouraging signs that many in the public are perceiving the lies and greed of the privatization movement.

Related Topics: School Privatization