Open letter to Kirsten Gillibrand re: USDOE and students with disabilities.

Senator Kirsten Gillebrand
Washington DC Office
478 Russell
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Gillibrand:

I am writing to you to express my continued disappointment in your support of Common Core over all, and recently, in your silence regarding Arne Duncan’s latest policies for students with disabilities.

Arne Duncan’s latest policy revolves around the following, quoted from an article on NPR’s website:

School officials must show that these children are getting instructional support in a timely manner and that they have full access to the curriculum and everything else that goes on in school.

Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said.

Arne Duncan once again proves that he has no idea what he is talking about.  This policy will be harmful to many special needs students.  Forcing students to handle more than they are capable is an abusive policy.  How does Arne Duncan know that students with disabilities can achieve when held to high expectations? Which students? What disabilities?

I am tired of Congress sitting idly by while Arne Duncan and the USDOE ruins public education in this country.

Congress should revise 20 U.S. Code § 7861 – Waivers of statutory and regulatory requirements to put control of NCLB waivers under Congressional authority and not the Secretary of Education.  Next, Congress needs to repeal NCLB completely.



Christine Zirkelbach


A Working Template for Political Action for Common Core

Jolyn Safron, who is blogging about Education Reform issues for Kingston Central School district posted this recap about her meeting with Assemblywoman Fahy.    You can follow Jolyn here:

Monica Kennedy Kounter and I attended a “Tea and Conversation” with Assemblywoman Fahy in Guilderland this afternoon. Assemblywoman Fahy is not my assemblywoman but I have seen her at an event or two because she has worked with my Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk and I found it very interesting to hear her thoughts on a variety of topics today.

Assemblywoman Fahy said that education is very near and dear to her heart and she talked quite a bit about education funding. She said that she believes the Assembly did not go far enough with regards to dealing with over-testing. She seems to be okay with the Common Core standards however.

When Monica and I asked her before the group discussion started ‘What can parents do?’ (with regards to Common Core), her suggestions were:
– Get to NYSUT (to get the union to support/work with parents)
– try to get pieces of the bill that was held through the assembly
– Fahy was not familiar with Dr. Stotsky when told about Common Sense Education Lobby Day but when she heard Dr. Stotsky was from Massachusetts, she suggested the following: King refers to Massachusetts as his model all the time – have Dr. Stotsky write an invitation to Commissioner King, since she wrote the Massachusetts standards, to attend the rally on June 17/her presentation and then publicize the invitation
– King keeps playing the race card – Fahy thinks we need to make our group (those speaking against Common Core) more diverse, get into the urban areas more

Notes from audience group discussion with Assemblywoman Fahy:
– education investment tax credit – she has worked a lot to fight this, Cardinal Dolan supports – $675 million tax credit to private schools and charter schools; she isn’t necessarily opposed to charter schools and she is Catholic but doesn’t support up to a 90% tax credit for someone making up to a million dollars – shifting their tax into a foundation, Cuomo has this as a top priority (to pass) for this year
– Fahy has a bill to give superintendents flexibility to assign community service (instead of other punishment) to students. It has passed the senate but stuck in committee in the Assembly. She believes she is being punished for standing up on other issues.
– Do e-mails/letters make a difference? YES! faxes are a pain in the neck – don’t send. e-mails are good, mass e-mails are effective, mail is very slow at the federal level due to anthrax checking/calls are better, no anthrax checking at state level, numbers really do matter, 13,000(Stop Common Core in New York number of members) isn’t enough for the Common Core issue.
– Monica’s question – bill regarding assessment piece doesn’t help youngest students. what would you like to see if partisan problem was gone? answer: immediate need is dealing with teacher evaluation. need to take growth rate provision out, reduce the number of tests tied to teacher evaluations (including SLOs) Guilderland superintendent said their school wants way to lift burden of the assessments. Fahy says dealing with teacher evaluation helps students because teachers are testing the very young kids (SLOs are being administered even in kindergarten). superintendent suggestion – rather than having teacher growth targets for each teacher/class, have school growth targets. says they believe student progress in grade 3 is connected to how they did in earlier grades so school growth goals are appropriate.
– New York over-relies on property taxes to fund local government and education. Have not seen mandate relief that was talked about with tax cap introduction. Fahy does not believe that tax cap will go away because property owners like the relief and the rebate will probably stay as well because they will like getting the check.
– discussion of confidential managers (not even exactly sure what that is but seems to be a particular group of state employees not being treated very fairly) who have received no pay increase for 6 years. the only reason I include this is because Fahy said it is hard to get any action on this because most of the managers are concentrated in the Albany area so only about 3 Assembly people affected so hard to get any support for bills to deal with the situation. This seems very unfair to a segment of the state employees (who can not even unionize) and is similar to the minority who lost out on bill A8844 in education committee. My personal question for us to think about: How do we stop having things have to be treated as ‘pet projects’ in Albany and really take care of what needs to be dealt with?