Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Threatens Legal Action Against Educators Who Support Opt Out

Just as some commenters on Perdido Street School blog pointed out would happen, NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is going to target educators who support the Opt Out movement with legal action:

ALBANY — Education commissioner MaryEllen Elia already has begun a battle to stop the rapidly growing opt-out movement before next year’s state tests, reaching out to department attorneys and meeting with superintendents, she told POLITICO New York.

“We’re trying to pull together a tool kit, if you will, to support superintendents in how we can communicate in a much more effective way to people across the state,” Elia said.

That kit will include legal information, which is why she has reached out to lawyers, Elia said.
“I want the superintendents to understand the reflections and law that they can use as an information piece when they talk to people in their community … It’s important for them to be able to say, ‘Listen, it’s the law.’”

Ooh, it's the law!

I am so impressed by that statement.

Segregation and slavery were the law too, but that didn't make those laws right or just.

Many states continue to have sodomy laws on the books too, but that doesn't make those laws right or just either.

Same goes with the "law" regarding standardized testing in New York State.

Giving standardized tests that have been rigged to fail 70% of the children in the state may be the law, but that doesn't make that law right or just.

Implicit in her statement that giving the tests is "the law" is that legal action can be used against people who flout that law.

She has already said any educator who supports or encourages opt outs is "unethical," so you know when she dangles legal threats around over opt out, that's who she's aiming at.

If Elia wants to threaten legal action against teachers who support the Opt Out movement - go for it.

With opt out rates going from 5% in 2014 to 20% in 2015, I can understand why Elia feels threatened over the Opt Out movement.

But threatening legal action against teachers who support opt out, I don't think that's going to be a winning proposition for her.

When push comes to shove, will she get back-up from the Legislature or the governor in a battle over the tests?

Governor Cuomo is a huge fan of bashing and scapegoating teachers, but even he has tread lightly around the testing and opt out issue, knowing that there is a growing opt out movement in the state that can hurt him politically.

It remains to be seen what Elia can do to teachers other than threaten them for supporting opt out - unless she wants NYSED to engage in thousands of 3020a disciplinary cases over opt out, that is.

Is that the plan?

If so, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Another thing that's not a winning proposition for Elia - equating support for opt out with ignorance on the part of parents.

Elia keeps saying (echoing Regents Chancellor Tisch) that NYSED has to get the message out to parents why testing is swell and kids should shut up and take their tests.

Elia even said last week that support for opt out is "not reasonable" - a statement that equates parent support for opt out with insanity.

This isn't sitting well with some parents:

When asked if she thinks opt out will continue to grow, Elia replied: “It’s incumbent upon us to get information and support out to those educators and leaders across New York … I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of communication and we have to do it a multiple levels.”

Some parents, like Jessica McNair, say they already are informed about Common Core and the opt-out movement should not be dismissed as a lack of information.

“I think she has a lot to learn about the parents in New York State,” McNair said. “We’re not going to back down until we see tests that are developmentally appropriate, and tests that are decoupled from the teacher evaluations.”

Opt Out CNY, which has 4,120 members, already has a 2015-16 refusal letter available to parents on its website — and some already have it signed and in their child’s book bags for the first day of school, McNair said.

Elia was supposedly hired because she is a "listener" and "consensus-builder."

From what I see so far, we've got John King Part Deaux, another a tone deaf corporate education reform water carrier for an NYSED Commissioner who reflexively attacks parents and teachers when they don't agree with her.

Let's see how that show plays over the next school year.


  1. What will serve as a benchmark for supporting the opt out movement? Will a written statement be required, or will an oral statement suffice? If a teacher says she sympathizes with those who opt out their children, but has not taken any concrete steps is she crossing the unethical threshold? It looks like a slippery slope to me.

    Abigail Shure

  2. I am actually beginning to see a tremendous opportunity here for our side. As I stated last night in another post, NYSED doesn't have the physical ability to do mass 3020A's, nor do they want to step into that shitstorm politically....they also can't afford it. Even in its streamlined state, 3020A's are expensive propositions. So there is that. Now, the opportunity I am starting to see through all the rhetoric, legal maneuvering, and fear mongering:

    We have the opportunity, right now, with this Opt Out thing, to have a significant win and re-insert ourselves as a voice that can't be ignored. (NYSUT has done very good work at making organized teachers a fully ignorable presence on the battlefield...that is NYSUT's legacy in this battle).
    If we as teachers, outside of the meaningless and deeply stupid NYSUT organization, band together and loudly say that we support opt out and will exercise all of our civil rights in articulating that, what could NYSED do? They'd attempt to make an example at first, but they'll be damaging people anyway because that is their thing....F'ing with teachers. However, they can't come after all of us or anywhere near it. They'd fail after 2 or 3.

    Maybe get a petition going around of teachers who will vocally stand for opt out. Get that petition into the deep thousands....deep deep thousands. Maybe do something where we can all contribute a few dollars for a legal defense pot for those few teachers who they try to make an example of, and hire some real solid lawyers (non NYSUT legal people obvi). Make sure the petition gets media attention. NYSED would be powerless, would look impotent and foolish, and we would have done a couple of things: 1) we would have stood up to Elia and the whole thing, which if nothing else we NEED as morale. 2) We would have given a serious finger to NYSUT and showed them that its membership is actually hugely more competent at this whole movement thing than leadership is, so why not do away with leadership. 3) Forcing NYSED to see itself in its proper context...and deflate their balloon a bit. There seems to be alot of aggrandizement at State Ed. of their power. 4) We all need a labor-politics reminder that every day of the week schools across the state function ONLY BECAUSE TEACHERS SHOW UP AND DO THEIR JOB. Reminding everyone, State Ed, the public, and ourselves of that is a smart thing to do.
    Dont get me wrong, I don't think the folks at NYSED will eat too much humble pie, but we have to start. Perhaps the banner of this should be: "ITS A STUPID LAW"

    Now I'm not saying the above is free of problems. Its the sloppy thinking of a blown-out, 12 years-at-it teacher who is no great mind. However, I do think we need to start thinking about some of these things at least. Putting up a firewall to fearmongering, bluster, and general bullshit from those who assume they have power has yet to really be seen here in NY and even if we lose (newsflash: we've pretty much lost it all if we let them keep going) we'll gain some experience at really fighting these people...not just in being intellectually right and trying to get a seat at the table.

    Every move the enemy makes presents a threat and an OPPORTUNITY. They have made a move. Lets think about the opportunity it presents.

    And no, I don't think NYSUT will ever see things this way, so its on us or we will get more of the same....which is losing our careers.

    1. Also...side point. I've said this before but it needs repeating: If Opt Out does not grow, if it goes down, or even if the numbers next year remain the same, Elia, etc will claim victory....they'll say, correctly, that they have at least contained the beast. This is critical stuff.

      Teachers, outside of NYSUT's coat-tail riding, half-assed bullshit, need to help opt out grow. Its that simple.

    2. We should also, as teachers, refuse to do anything at school regarding these tests. Administer, proctor, etc. We should force state ed. and spine-less admin to do it all themselves. Or how about some blue days when these tests are sucks when we all get sick! We need to start activating and putting up a fight. No need to reinvent the wheel. Just read some labor history.

  3. Gravity: It's the Law!

    And following the Law, this vicious, foolish proxy for our Education Overlords is going down...

  4. There are quite a few teachers who are parents who are actively promoting opt outs in the districts in which they live by running local opt out FB groups and holding informational meetings, among other things. Is Elia really going to come after us? Are we acting "unethically" because we are encouraging opt out for children other than our own? Elia should put some guideline out there so it can be addressed before she comes after us because the truth that I won't be stopped. That's my hometown, and it's my civic duty to support my schools. It's my right to do whatever I can to ensure that my child and all the children in my district get a great education. Doing nothing would be unethical, in my opinion.

  5. Elia is acting unethically by promoting abusive testing.

  6. At the risk of repeating myself Elia is John King with an estrogen pump.

  7. Sign the petition by assemblyman AL Graf for the Regents to fire Elia and reevaluate their stance on CC.