When we “reimagine” education, all stakeholders need to be at the table: teachers, administrators and staff, school board members, taxpayers, parents, and students ... and, OK, Bill Gates and Governor Cuomo. During a time of crisis leaders need to make decisions quickly and definitively. Why flaunt a billionaire’s offer to dictate change to our education system? Leadership requires trust so we can move forward together.
When the governor closed schools, everyone moved together and provided online content in an emergency situation. Schools are not providing distance learning. Nor are they providing online classes. Educators are doing herculean work to get content and support to students all over NY in any way possible.
It is not all happening online and all students are not engaged. Many students lack the technological tools at home and many school districts lack the technological infrastructure to support online/distance learning. Some parents are guiding these efforts and some are not for many reasons. It is not perfect and there are plenty of areas that need to be improved. We may need to do this again or we may want to use technology to supplement education in the future.
However, New York educators and the governor do not have established trust. This is a complicated relationship that has formed after many poorly implemented educational endeavors, that include, unfunded mandates, broken funding formulas and poorly executed teacher assessments, just to name a few. Multi-billionaire and private-school-educated Bill Gates has scapegoated teachers and intuitions as “wasteful” in his criticisms of public education. Needless to say, that is not the best way to “win friends and influence people.”
Now crisis has come. Gates and our governor receive high marks for their leadership. Our governor’s actions have saved thousands of lives and the Gates Foundation’s continuing work for world health will contribute to a quick recovery and the prevention of future pandemics.
Now is not the time for the governor and Bill Gates to disguise top-down initiatives for education as part of a pandemic response. This partnership amid these uncertain times should give us all pause. Devising system changes without involving the stakeholders is a formula for failure. The mistrust will continue to grow if our governor pushes forward without providing adequate funding; professional development for educators; technological infrastructure; curriculum for technologically literacy; and appropriate implementation of such plans. Well-designed school systems will happen only after we engage all stakeholders.
Dia Carabajal is the Democratic candidate for the state's 126th Assembly District.
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