From today’s Heard Around Town:
* More than 50 people rallied yesterday against StudentsFirstNY, a political group launched earlier this year to push for charter schools, for making it easier to lay off teachers and for other education policy changes. Carrying signs saying “StudentsFirstNY = Billionaire$ Fir$t NY” and “Fat Cats – Get Your Dirty Paws Off Our Schools,” demonstrators gathered along Central Park West outside the Manhattan residence of StudentsFirstNY board member and hedge fund manager Dan Loeb. Cynthia Williams, a parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice, claimed that StudentsFirstNY would push for “more standardized testing, more privatization and more school closings and more budget cuts.” “StudentsFirstNY says they are a union for students, but we know the truth,” Williams said. “They are really a club for billionaires who don’t represent the voice of the student, the voice of the parent and the voices of community.” Glen Weiner, the deputy executive director of StudentsFirstNY, dismissed the “silly stunts” and called for “meaningful and substantative dialogue.” “Of course we support more funding for schools, but we also support spending it on ways that help kids – like rewarding excellent teachers,” he said in a statement. “Finding common ground instead of making personal attacks would be a conversation worth having.”
Billy Easton, the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, called to say that it’s a “fiction” that StudentsFirstNY supports more funding for schools, asserting that the group has “never done anything to back up that statement.”
“Number one, nowhere in their platform do they support any classroom strategies other than testing,” he said. “So things that cost money, like a high-quality curriculum and expanded learning time, that’s not part of their public advocacy agenda. Nor do they have anything about school funding or equity of school funding, and they have been absolutely AWOL in every state across the country in the fight against school cuts.”
“We welcome the idea of a constructive dialogue, but it has to be based on the idea of honesty, not on misleading spin,” Easton added.
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