Howie Hawkins on Governor Coumo’s Teacher Hate and Public School Disdain

Hawkins Condemns Cuomo’s Attack on Schools. Stands With Teachers, Parents, Students

“Education is Not a Game”

NY Times Story on LIPA Cover-Up Shows Cuomo: Has Pattern of Coverups and Can’t be Trusted

(Syracuse, NY) — “The battle for the future of our schools is on. On one side are powerful and wealthy figures who see our public schools as a potential source of profit. On the other side are parents, teachers, and students who are fighting to defend and improve our public schools. We, Brian Jones our Lt. Governor candidate and I stand solidly with our state’s teachers, students and parent,” said Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor.

After Governor Cuomo’s recent description of schools as the “last public monopoly,” Hawkins said that this is just the latest episode in Cuomo’s ongoing attacks on public education and teachers.

“Andrew Cuomo is turning New York’s schools into the Hunger Games. He pushes a game of competitive grants, charter schools, and high-stakes testing. This type of competition leaves a lot of losers. But our children’s education is not a game.”

“What is Cuomo going to attack after he breaks the schools and teachers? Break up the police and fire departments? Have competing companies to deliver drinking water?” asked Hawkins.

Hawkins noted that under Cuomo funding for education has fallen to the lowest percentage of the state budget in 65 years, with a $9 billion cumulative shortfall from what the courts have ordered. He has also enacted tax caps to undermine the ability of local schools districts to make up for the state’s funding shortfall.

Cuomo has also led a drive to privatize the schools, favoring charter schools and promoting high stakes testing, both of which increase profits for his campaign contributors. Last week he vowed to challenge public school teachers by supporting stricter teacher evaluations and competition from charter schools.

“A governor who treats public education as some corporate entity, who shows no support for public education doesn’t deserve a second term. The remarks made clear that Cuomo is an enemy of our public education system. And that he wants to break it,” added Hawkins.

“Cuomo claims to want competition in the education market, but he doesn’t really want a free market—he’s rigging the game. He’s underfunding the public schools at a 65-year low as a percentage of the budget. He’s providing extra subsidies to privately managed public schools. He is not for competition; he’s favoring the charters. His real agenda is about undermining public education to privatize it.”

“This whole idea of competition is wrongheaded anyway. Education should be a human right. New York’s constitution says every child should be provided a sound education; that’s not to be outsourced to corporations and investors, yet that is his goal. ”

Hawkins wants assessments written by educators, not corporate contractors. “We want to end the role of using testing to punish schools, students or teachers. We support community—parent, teacher, student—control of schools, with adequate resources to write their own curricula. We need schools that respect, nurture, and support the cultures and languages in our communities,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins said that Cuomo’s deeply disturbing comment on education is part of a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior by Cuomo in the closing days of the campaign, starting with his mishandling of the Ebola epidemic. Yesterday he dismissed the Moreland Commission scandal as “political baloney.”

Cuomo also has shown a clear pattern of cover-ups, where he hides or alters information from the public for his own political needs. He shut down his second Moreland Commission once it began asking questions about the massive campaign contributions he was receiving. He altered a federal hydrocracking study he commissioned to downplay fracking’s threat to the water supply. And today the NY Times reports in an expose that Cuomo hid from the public the role his administration played in leaving the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) short staffed, which contributed to its disastrous performance in Hurricane Sandy. He also blocked their efforts to communicate with the public during the Sandy emergency. He used the report to privatize LIPA.

“Cuomo has a Nixonian compulsion for cover-ups. He can’t be trusted to tell New Yorkers the truth,” Hawkins said.

“There is a reason why Cuomo’s nickname is the Prince of Darkness. He is the top dog in the culture of corruption that dominates the State Capitol. He deceives the public, he bullies_—his administration has been one of the most secretive in history, evading the Freedom of Information law. And he trades political favors, at taxpayer expense, in exchange for massive donations,” added Hawkins.

“One has to wonder why a party like the Working Families Party wants people to vote for a candidate who attacks workers and public education, opposes making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, waffles on fracking, doesn’t support universal single payer health care, and covers up information critical to the public to suit his political goals.”

Hawkins has been endorsed by a wide range of teachers union and educators, include Diane Ravitch; Nassau County’s East Williston Teachers’ Association; northern Westchester County’s Lakeland Federation of Teachers; Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Valley Central Teachers Association, Buffalo Teachers Federation, The Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers.; New York Badass Teacher Association, United Opt Out Independent Community of Educators, Independent Commission on Public Education (ICOPE), and Coalition for Public Education.
Video: April, 2014 Howie Hawkins on Education –
July 2014 – An Open Letter from Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones for Lt. Governor to NY Teachers

Green Party’s Position on School Privatization: Howie Hawkins Supports Public Schools!

Another quote from Howie Hawkins website:

Hawkins is a strong critic of charter schools, citing them as part of the drive by the Cuomo administration for the privatization of the education system. Hawkins has also said that many of the problems with schools in disadvantaged communities are attributable to the broader social problems of poverty and segregation.

“Real education reform requires broader social reform to end poverty concentrated in disadvantaged communities by race and class segregation,” Hawkins said.

Thank you Howie Hawkins!  Vote Green Party!


Number of Homeless Children in NYC Spikes

Robbie Couch wrote a devastating piece for Huffington Post about the sharp increase in child homelessness in New York entitled, “Number of Homeless Kids in NYC spikes 63% in 5 Years: Report.”

Couch writes:

“New York City neighborhoods known for their middle-class appeal may be tumbling down the socioeconomic ladder, and children are suffering the consequences.

A new report by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness found that the number of homeless kids in public city schools has jumped 63 percent in the last five years, with the borough of Queens experiencing an alarming 90 percent spike. As New York Daily News reported, most of the increase was felt in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens known to house middle-class families.

There were 77,915 homeless students living in shelters or staying with friends or extended family in the 2012-2013 school year — an increase of 30,020 children from 2007-2008.

The statistics are staggering,” the report reads. “Unless something is done to address the underlying issues driving families into extreme poverty, more children will become homeless. Community and government officials already know what the data show: that instability and homelessness have dire and long-lasting negative effects on children.”

New York City — which has been trying to halt growing income inequality among residents — is not the exception.

There was a record number of homeless students in the U.S. during the 2012-2013 school year, according to a survey by the Department of Education released last month. The report, which recorded 1,258,182 children living without stable shelter, tracked an 8 percent increase in homeless students from the previous school year.

As The Washington Post reported, 75 percent of homeless students nationwide were living “doubled up” with extended relatives or friends, 16 percent were staying in hotels or motels, and 3 percent were living without any form of shelter. Schools also reported that 75,940 homeless students were living without any caregiver supervision.”

This should be a wake-up call for all Americans.  While corporate reformers continue to seek ways to make huge profits off the backs of America’s school children, the reality is that a growing number of children really just need a home, parents who earn a living wage, healthy food, high quality affordable childcare, and safe neighborhoods.  Reform the lives of children and test scores will rise.  Finland did it.  We can, too. Finland focused their efforts on eliminating child poverty and they did.  Let’s focus our efforts on improving the lives of our citizens, and in particular those who have no vote or voice in policy, our children.  Nothing is more important.



Why I’m Voting for the Green Party for Governor of New York in 2014: It’s Time to Bust the Democrat/Republican Political Monopoly

Governor Cuomo is no friend to public schools (and the children and families they serve), teachers, or local school boards.  I cannot vote for him.  Nor can I vote for his Republican opponent.  While folks will say that a vote for a third party candidate is wasted, I think it’s time to take a stand.  Howie Hawkins, the Green candidate, will get my vote for governor next week.  Please read Hawkins’ open letter to teachers from July, 2014 (

His letter begins with the following:

“Dear Teachers:

The battle for the future of our schools is heating up. On one side are powerful and wealthy figures who see our public schools as a potential source of profit. On the other side are parents, teachers, and students who are fighting to defend and improve our public schools.

We are candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor who have consistently stood on your side of that struggle.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s candidate for Governor, is a teamster and union activist from Syracuse. Howie has a long record of standing up for public education, for fully funded, desegregated schools, and for supporting our teachers.

Brian Jones, the Green Party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor, taught elementary school grades in New York City’s public schools for nine years. As an educator, he fought charter schools, school closings, and the spread of high-stakes standardized testing. In the course of these battles, he co-founded a new caucus in the United Federation of Teachers called The Movement of Rank and File Educators and co-narrated the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.”

Hawkins and Jones are two politicians that deserve the support of teachers, teacher unions, parents, local school board members, and those who support the democratic institution of public schools.  I fully acknowledge that only a miracle would result in their election.  However, it is time to bust the Democrat/Republican political monopoly.  And this is a good time and place to start the process.  It’s time for citizens to truly have a voice in government and it’s time to end the reign of corporate policy makers.

Let’s send a message, public school supporters:


Governor Cuomo, a Friedmanomics Devotee

Diane Ravitch posted the following commentary on New York Governor Cuomo on her blog:   Her posting references a New York Daily News article entitled “Cuomo will push new teacher evaluations, vows to bust school ‘monopoly’ if re-elected”  This is a clarion call to all public school supporters.  I, for one, appreciate Cuomo’s open declaration about where he stands on public schools, teachers, local school boards, and children in the state of New York.  He is touting the “company line” — or, rather, the “corporate line” — when it comes to education policy.

Right out of the Milton Friedman Friedmanonics free market playbook, Cuomo declares that public education is a monopoly!

Clearly, a vote for Cuomo for governor is a vote against public schools and a vote for corporate education reformers who envision RTTT as a way to make a lot of money in the education arena.  This is hard for me to write.  I am a Democrat.  However, I can never vote for someone who is promoting teacher hate and a disdain for locally controlled public schools.  It’s time to reclaim our public schools America!

TIME Magazine, Corporate Superstars, and Teacher Hate

I’m infuriated.  I want to declare my allegiance to heros who have dedicated their lives to  America’s public schools.  My list includes Mrs. Zablocki, my 1st grade teacher in St. Petersburg, Florida; Mrs. Gerstner, my 3rd grade teacher in Ledyard, Connecticut; Mrs. Broadmoor, my 4th grade teacher in Staten Island, New York; and Mrs. Hill, my 7th grade English teacher in Savannah, Georgia.  You see, my father was in the Coast Guard and we moved around quite a bit — so I experienced public school education in a number of states.  My list also includes those on the front lines of efforts to reclaim the democratic institution of public schools like Diane Ravitch, Susan Ohanian, Mercedes Schneider, Peter Green, Anthony Cody, and so many others.  My list also includes the millions of moms and dads who have supported their public schools over the years, the children served by public schools across our country, the teachers who are in the business of transforming the lives of their students, and the administrators and school board members who work diligently to meet the needs of the communities they serve.


TIME Magazine’s cover story, “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher.  Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That,” obviously panders to the One Percenters who position themselves as being the standard bearers of the free market that has rewarded them so richly and has allowed hedge fund managers to set the economic agenda for the rest of the country.  This, however, is not a new phenomenon.  Corporate superstars have been inserting themselves in federal education policy for decades.  And leading the charge has been those involved in the tech industry.  David Kearns, credited with saving Xerox in the 1980s, brought his corporate reform ideas to the education arena and the federal Department of Education during the H. W. Bush administration.  Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, likewise became a powerful voice in education reform in the 1990s, hosting the 1996 Palisades Summit at the IBM headquarters, a meeting that brought governors (who he referred to as the CEOs of their states) together with prominent corporate CEOs to decide the fate of public schools in the U.S.  This was the meeting that birthed Achieve, a free market reform agenda, and the CCSS.  It was at this meeting that President Bill Clinton introduced the education policy world to Bill Gates, then embroiled in investigations into his dubious, monopolistic practices at Microsoft.


Teacher hate and a disdain for public schools is not new to the tech millionaires.  In 1995, speaking at the National Governors Association, Lou Gerstner ironically began his speech by stating, “I’m here because of Willie Sutton.  Willie robbed banks, the story goes, because he realized that’s where the money is.  I’m here because this is where the power is — the power to reform — no, to revolutionize — the U.S. public school system.”*  Almost two decades later, I think it’s safe to say that Gerstner’s first assertion has turned out to be more accurate.  The corporate world was there at the table of education reform policy because, indeed, that’s where the money is.  In 2008, Gerstner would reveal the corporate agenda for education reform, calling for “The abolishment of all local school districts except for 70 — one for each of the 50 states and one for each of the major cities and the establishment of a set of national standards for a core curriculum.”


There has been no secret conspiracy to privatize the American public school system.  Corporate reformers have been quite bold in establishing their agenda.  As I write in my upcoming book, The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy, “The steady drumbeat of corporate encroachment into the education arena was there the entire time. However, its cadence was so steady and natural that, like cicadas at sunset, the noise went almost unnoticed by too many Americans.  The idea that the nation’s public school system was a failure had become an unquestioned zeitgeist by a burgeoning number of critics who jumped on board the anti-public school bandwagon.  Those on the political right and the political left seized every opportunity to point to the need to systemically reform public education.”*


“There is a price on the head of every child in America.  As the free market theories of Milton Friedman became the driving force behind public policy in the United States, beginning with the Reagan administration, public schools would inevitably become ensnared in the dragnet of entrepreneurs who envisioned public education as a burgeoning market.”*


The issue of teacher tenure is just the latest focus of corporate reformers intent on destroying public schools in America.  Is teacher tenure protection really the problem?  I began my education career as a public school teacher in Mississippi.  There is no tenure protection in Mississippi and no real union presence to advocate for teachers.  Mississippi, therefore, should be the exemplar for the power of eliminating tenure protection and allowing teachers to be fired more easily as a way to improve education and student achievement.  The reality is, however, that Mississippi students have and continue to rank much lower on measures of student achievement than other students across the country.  Apparently, teacher tenure laws are not the largest barrier to student achievement.  Research has demonstrated time and again that poverty and other social factors contribute greatly to student achievement.  So, it is no wonder that Mississippi, with some of the highest rates of poverty in the country, lags behind the rest of the country in rankings of student achievement.


Clearly when it comes to corporate led education reform, “America’s public school system has once again become a scapegoat for all that ails American society, while heralding all the ramifications of free market systemic education reform as the means of saving the United States from its supposed enemy –  the public school system writ large.”*  However, as the last short paragraph of my book proclaims, “For American citizens, if there is one thing to remember about public schools it is this: Public schools are not government schools, nor are they corporate free market schools.  Public schools belong to the public.  Public schools are citizen schools, and it is now up to citizens to reclaim what is theirs!”*


* Quoted texts are excerpted from my upcoming book The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, January, 2015).


Deb Owens