Political Pawns

Things I’ve never done before. Walked around with a political sign, wrote to politicians, watched the New York Assembly debate and vote live.

“The times they are a changin.” In the last month I have done all three.

Common core and “high stakes” testing has changed me.

I never really had much faith in politicians, but as I watched the debate tonight I found myself buying into the system. I was actually shouting at my tablet as it streamed live into my home.

I witnessed legislators articulating words that I wanted to deliver, at least the republicans anyway. Great men like James Tedisco, Edward Ra, and Steven McLaughlin. They spoke with passion and fortitude vigorously defending our children and our public schools.

Then one by one the democrats began apologetically, “Let me explain my vote.” Wondrous words came out of their mouths praising teachers, principals, and superintendents. They articulated how important education is for our children, up until the time they interjected “BUT” into their speech. That’s when they sold out our kids, our teachers, our public schools, and our future. Their considerate words couldn’t lessen the pain of the slap across the face they just delivered as they empowered Andrew Cuomo with the ability to harm our public educational system and his dangerous actions towards our kids.

This was a hard pill to swallow.

Two men in particular stood out tonight. Not only did they argue to deprive our children of a quality education, but they felt the need to blame teachers and unions. I found this most despicable. How heinous are their hearts? They should be ashamed of themselves. The dishonorable Michael Fitzpatrick and David Gannt showed no class in a distinguished forum. Where did they go so wrong? What baggage are they carrying around? Disgraceful!

It eventually became clear to me that all I needed to know was which party the legislator represented because that would tell me the outcome of their vote. I couldn’t help feeling duped. Was I so naive that the outcome was predetermined and that this was a time for grandstanding? I believed so strongly in these republican legislators. They had me hook, line and sinker. For now I will continue to believe in them until I have a reason to think otherwise. Their rhetoric was so profound.

As each and every member came up to explain their vote and then cast it, I found myself yearning for one person to buck the party line. By now I knew the outcome; that this awful budget was clearly going to pass. Would one person have the courage? I didn’t believe I would see it, but then it happened. Earlier in the evening the honorable Angela Wozniak asked the chamber to “have moral courage.” One man had that courage. I will never forget. Charles Barron was that man. He was the one democrat that crossed the party line. He voted for the children of New York State. I forget his exact words but he said he couldn’t in good conscience vote for this budget.

Thank you Charles Barron. You gave me faith in humanity. Your actions speak ten times louder than the empty words spoken before voting yes to this atrocious budget deal. Everyone in the room knew it.

If you are curious about the vote all you need to know is the political party of the representative to learn how they voted. Democrats voted in favor, republicans opposed. Charles Barron was the exception. He stood up for children. He deserves our respect.

The rhetoric was admirable. A room full of influential people who know very little about public education with the power to dictate policy. They gave the power back to the forces that have failed us for the last two years, NYSED and the regents. Teachers want to teach, but that ability is being stripped away from them. All the money in the world won’t solve the problem if teachers aren’t given the autonomy to practice their profession. Teachers need funding for authentic materials. Investing in Pearson and independent observers isn’t going to yield better results for struggling students. It doesn’t address the real problems but continues the false narrative scapegoating educators for societies shortcomings.

The frustration will continue for educators while our children are the ones that will pay the price. It’s inconceivable.
Honor roll
A list of legislators that I personally witnessed speaking on behalf of our children, our teachers, and our schools.

Honorable Phillip A Palmesano, Steven McLaughlin, Michael P Kearns, Angela Wozniak, Dean Murray, Jim Tedisco, Peter Lopez, Raymond Walter, Chad Lupinacci, Al Graf, Nicole Malliotakis, Marc Butler, Daniel Stec, Anthony Palumbo, Edward Ra, Claudia Tenney, Janet Dubrey, Phil Steck, Brian Curran, Andy Goodell, James Brennan, Peter Lopez, Kieran Lalor, Bill Nojay, Fred Thiele, Charles Barron (the lone democrat), Al Graf, Dean Murray, and Christopher Friend.

(Disclaimer – there may have been others but I missed the beginning of the session.)

Opinion by Mark Hegenauer


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