Controversy is swirling over advance selection of speakers and admittance restrictions to education forums this week on Long Island featuring state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., with some angry parents saying they will demonstrate outside high schools where meetings are to be held.
The forums, Tuesday at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket and Wednesday at Mineola High School, are among about a dozen statewide that King and other state officials had described as opportunities to air concerns over revved-up student testing, the rigorous Common Core academic standards, teacher job evaluations and protection of student data.
Two more forums are slated to be held on Long Island, on Nov. 26 and Dec. 9, though complete details on locations and times have not been announced.
At Tuesday's forum, coordinated by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), five pre-selected people from each of 12 Suffolk County school districts will be seated in a reserved section of the Ward Melville auditorium, which can accommodate about 900, according to Three Village school superintendent Cheryl Pedisch. Three people from each district will be allowed two minutes each to speak.
Otherwise, seating will be on a first-come basis, Pedisch said. The forum, from 6 to 8 p.m., also will be live-streamed on video in the school's cafeteria, which can hold about 420 people.
An Education Department spokesman, Tom Dunn, said King and other officials, including Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, were holding the meetings at lawmakers' invitation. He declined to comment on the use of tickets.
"These are not open forums," said North Bellmore parent Jeanette Deutermann, adding that she believes state officials set tighter restrictions on Island forums than those elsewhere. "We all have a right to be heard."
Deutermann, who is active in a statewide movement to have students refuse to take state tests, said she and other test opponents will hold meetings outside Ward Melville and Mineola high schools as protests against what they view as controls on unfettered debate.
They're looking to control the forums and make sure nothing untoward comes out and goes viral on the Internet.
In the end, they will fail because they cannot tamp down criticism and opposition by suppressing it.
If anything, they're adding fuel to the fire by acting with such arrogance around these forums.
Indeed Regents Chancellor Tisch made it clear in an interview with Newsday that she's not attending these forums to hear public concerns, she's there to sell the state education reform agenda:
Tisch, in a phone interview, said she wants the public to know that the state's academic requirements must be upgraded to prepare students for college and 21st century careers. "Where we are now is simply not good enough for New York State to remain competitive," she said.
The chancellor cited results of national testing released last week that showed New York in the middle of the pack among states in reading and math scores for fourth and eighth grades.
Translation: she doesn't care what the public thinks or what concerns they have over the Common Core standards, the SED modules trotted out along with the CCSS, the unpiloted Common Core tests, the teacher evaluation system that forces so much more testing upon the children of the state or the data collection project known as inBloom that the state is going to use.
Tisch, the doyenne of the standardized test as Diane Ravitch once dubbed her, is not used to her inferiors challenging her and you can see that in how she is dealing with the criticism and opposition to her agenda.
I don't think she's going to win this battle.
An imperious Regents Chancellor dictating the "reforms" the little people need is going to just fan the flames on the revolt.
So far, no one has shown up at these forums with the proverbial pitch forks and torches to burn the lord's castle yet.
But if SED and the Regents, along with the politicians who put these functionaries into place, continue to ignore the will of the public, that may just happen.