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Tisch calls NYSUT's "no confidence" vote a political "sideshow"

Geoff Decker

ALBANY — Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch today dismissed new criticism from the state teachers union as a “sideshow” more motivated by politics than a commitment to addressing challenges posed by education policies being implemented across the state.

“With the exception of conversations that focus on instruction and curriculum, and the appropriate implementation of Common Core, professional development of teachers, everything else is a sideshow,” Tisch said Monday morning at the Board of Regents meeting at the State Education Department.

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi said last week that he would call for a “no confidence vote” in State Education Commissioner John King’s leadership at the union’s board of directors meeting this month. Iannuzzi said the symbolic action was motivated by “mounting frustration” that his calls for King to make changes to some of the most contentious policies had been ignored.

The union’s vote would have no consequence other than yet again drawing attention a key disagreement between the union and state officials over the best way to improve teacher practice and raise learning standards for students.

King has pushed forward an aggressive agenda that includes the simultaneous implementation of two signature policies, new teacher evaluations and new Common Core-aligned tests whose results are directly tied to many teachers’ ratings. Iannuzzi has pressed for a slower rollout until all districts and schools are prepared with proper curriculum and resources for professional development.

State officials have sought to portray Iannuzzi’s gripes are being more tied to “politics” than concerns from teachers. In her initial response to Iannuzzi, Tisch used the word “politics” three times in less than a minute. She said she would prefer to focus on forward-looking solutions that wouldn’t alter those policies than to dwell on “the politics of this personalization” against King.

King, who is responsible for implementing policies that Tisch and the rest of the Board of Regents set, also suggested that Iannuzzi’s latest actions are politically motivated.

“I understand Mr. Iannuzzi is under a lot of internal pressure,” he said in an interview last week, alluding to NYSUT’s internal elections scheduled for April.

Less than two hours after Tisch’s comments on Monday morning, Iannuzzi sent out his own statement that criticized King — though left out any mention of Tisch or the Board of Regents’ policy-making role — for his handling of the Common Core implementation.

“NYSUT, like many stakeholders, committed to a framework that had the potential to make the Common Core about raising standards, and teacher evaluations about improving classroom instruction,” Iannuzzi said. “The commissioner and SED have corrupted both with their obsession over standardized testing and data collection, instead of teaching and learning.”

The back-and-forth comes against the backdrop of a legislative session where lawmakers have said they will review the most contentious education policies and consider some for revision. As the session gets underway, King suggested last week that Iannuzzi is picking a fight with the wrong person.

“[I]t strikes me that that the real dispute he has is the with the governor and the legislature,” King said.

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