State lawmakers, local parents and educators are urging the state Education Department to follow through on its promise to reschedule four recently canceled town hall-style meetings.
The statewide meetings were a collaboration between the state and the New York State PTA to spread awareness and hear concerns about the recently implemented Common Core system of learning standards for New York public schools. The tour was suspended last week after state Education Department Commissioner John King Jr. squared off against an unruly crowd in Poughkeepsie.
A town hall meeting had been scheduled for the Shenendehowa Central School District on Wednesday night. After the cancelation was announced Friday, parents of Shenendehowa students suggested the district host its own forum, without King, but district officials declined.
Shenendehowa Teachers Association President Megan DeLaRosa said Wednesday there should still be a discussion on the Common Core.
“Something definitely needs to be done so parents have their forum to ask their questions and share their concerns,” she said.
DeLaRosa said she was initially encouraged by plans to engage parents, who she said still have unresolved questions, such as how assessments will impact their children.
The state Education Department says it is trying to determine a new style of meeting where King can engage parents without things getting out of hand. King said Saturday certain forces were purposefully trying to be disruptive during the forums.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, said in a statement King was making the right move by trying to reschedule the events. He said King was wrong to cancel the events to begin with.
“All of us in public life occasionally have to take the heat from our constituents,” Steck said.
In a letter to King, state Sen Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, described the Poughkeepsie forum as a teachable moment and voiced support for continuing the meetings with a new format.
“One of the recurring complaints on Common Core and testing is that parents and teachers were not brought in to the planning process,” she wrote. “To now refuse to hold future meetings would only reinforce the perception that [the] state Education Department is forcing the curriculum without proper planning and public input.”
State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, also called on King to reschedule the events and questioned his attack on unnamed special interests.
“Every year, state legislators meet with constituents across our districts to hear the views of those who elected us,” Seward said in a statement. “Commissioner King should meet with his constituency, as well — the taxpayers of the state who have valid concerns about our educational preparation and testing trajectory and who foot the bill for our salaries and for the cost of educating our students.”
Also calling for rescheduling the meetings were assemblymen Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Marc Butler, R-Newport.