My letter to Three NY State Assembly members

Below is a letter I just sent to Assemblywomen Lifton and Nolan, as well as Speaker Heastie. I usually get a phone call from Barb, and it’s been a while since we have spoke to each other. If I hear anything, I will follow up. They really are good people and need all of us behind them so they can know they represent a powerful and formidable collective. I think that is the reason why we are already seeing some reluctant backpedaling language from some leaders (regarding parental rights regarding tests). But there is way more to the battle ahead than the tests alone. The purpose of education and the promise of what should be waiting for future citizens needs to be collaboratively defined and ensured.

Honestly, and this is something I shared with Assemblywomen Nolan and Lifton when we met (last August was it, in Barb’s Ithaca office?) : I have been feeling more and more Republican with every passing year. Please help me stop this moral decline as anger takes me (as it did Anakin Skywalker) and lures me to the apparent power of the dark side.My decline into “republicanism” (I don’t want to call it “evil”…not yet anyways) is mostly because of the feeling I sometimes get that traditional principles I value in my leaders have been abandoned in the hopes of maintaining and/or preserving some legislative advantage. I’m coming mostly from the perspective of a public school teacher-but just as important as that: I have the perspective of the first college grad in my family, a boy that spent his youth in a single-mother household (but with a father involved and a sense of respect and value of responsibility…). I also have the perspective of someone who has always been a thinker, a people watcher, and observer of human nature, with an interest in politics and leadership. In my family, there would often be three generations gathered talking politics while we solved the crossword in the daily paper and debated the existence of “Bat-Boy” and location of Elvis as described in those other “newspapers”. Call it a VERY well rounded upbringing. Speaker Heastie, being about a month older than me (10/21/67 is my D.O.B.), do you remember that debate when Reagan was smug and dismissive of a president that many criticize-but to this day demonstrates more real character than any I can remember? I was like 13-plus-one-week but couldn’t wait for the day I could register to vote poser talking point paper-people out of or away from office.

Well, now I am living in a state where I need to look closely to see if that really is a “D” next to my governor’s name. I have to read and replay to see if I really did get that WFP, UFT or AFT endorsement thing correct…really, they did THAT? And now we promote a couple of SED fails upward and away from NY, but bring in a new commissioner that dares to double-down on disrespects of the past.

     We seriously need to move past this arrogance from within the ranks of the party I once loved and get back to being truthful about what bad policy has done to families. We need to move towards a day where we have a swifter mechanism for getting more transparency and more responsive/responsible leadership into SED. No more regent “fellows” advising without full disclosure of who they are, what their agenda is and what money is flowing, where, and why; more direct involvement of the boots on the ground. No more cheap-and-easy answer focusing on tests as the measure and punish stick; more shared accountability for ALL of the efforts and investments required to produce capable and productive citizens.
      To the point: Speaker Heastie gave me my first glimmer of hope that something good could actually be possible. Not a delay of pain bill, not a band-aid to make some extra rules regarding testing bill…those things are like covering bruises and making up excuses when you are the victim in an abusive relationship-and make no mistake, public schools in this state, the students in them and the communities around them, the professionals and non-professionals serving in them: it’s often an abusive relationship when they are among the neediest and/or serving the neediest and have to suffer the insane under-funded, test-obsession brand of “reform”. Speaker Heastie acknowledged in a recent interview that educators are often forced to be responsible for addressing a host of burdens that students bring to school with them. A test score is not necessarily the thing educators serving the most needy students feel most accountable for, and that market-friendly data can’t always be the priority.
      So can we move forward with a demand for a more holistic approach? A portfolio of accountability that includes academic dipsticks (standardized tests) but also social, community, charitable, student self-awareness/self-selected experiences that envelope the things developing citizens truly need? I am tired of the op-eds planted in papers in this state and will continue to respond to them and hound you folks with my (probably) empty threats to go to the dark side. What kind of role model would I be for my girls?
     So honestly, thanks for fighting the fight as best you can. I look forward to defeating the dark side with your help.
Dan McConnell
Cortland, NY

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