Great leaders do what’s right…not what’s political

If you think about it, educating its children is the most important thing a society can do. Education has the potential to equalize the vast differences between the rich and the poor. The life story of our current president shows us that, as does the story of the brilliant governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. Those who serve on school boards and Parent Teacher Associations are among the greatest heroes in this country. Those who stand in the way of educating our kids are among the worst of us.

Billy Easton is one of the good guys. He is committed to the education of our children. His campaign, the Alliance for Quality Education, is leading the war against those politicians who would climb on the backs of our kids in order to make their electoral way to the top. Obviously, people don’t want to pay higher taxes and ambitious politicians seize onto that fact as many of them try to reduce the amount of money we can spend on our schools.

The fight between hero Easton and Governor Cuomo has become a serious match up. Cuomo received a million fewer votes in this election than he did when he first ran four years ago. My bet is that he didn’t get a lot of votes from dedicated teachers in this state. When he starts to pick on public education the way he has, he courts trouble from a lot parents who demand that their schools do what they were intended to do. They can’t do that unless they have money.

I learned to love music from Mr. Steiker, who taught me how to play the trumpet and to play in an orchestra — the single most important thing I did in my educational career. My heart aches for all those kids who never had that opportunity.

Billy Easton says that Cuomo has been selling out to the right wing community and their leaders who oppose public education. He says that the governor has received huge amounts of campaign money from people who stand behind the charter school movement that educates only a small proportion of our kids. I think that there’s a place for charters but not at the expense of regular public schools.

First, Cuomo put a tax cap on how much communities can raise. That has led to strangulation for some of our most needy schools. Then in a cynical move, Cuomo put up a bond issue that has to be paid off to the tune of millions of dollars over thirty years at which time Cuomo will be long gone. Obviously, if you pay as you go you can avoid the huge interest rate on a billion dollar bond.

In yet another red flag, the governor announced that education is the last great monopoly. This infuriated Easton because there are so many modalities of education out there, from private schools to charter schools. That’s anything but a huge monopoly.

The most important thing to emphasize is that our schools are truly the only hope for creating a state and a country with full equality of opportunity. The people who pull up the gangplank after they’ve gotten theirs are always mouthing off about people doing for themselves and lifting themselves up by their bootstraps. The one thing that will allow that to happen is a decent education.

Andrew Cuomo needs to take stock and to do what is right rather than what is political. Great leaders do that, even in the face of unpopularity. The right wingers are fomenting revolution over the common core curriculum, a perfectly good idea about raising standards which can’t be met unless we support our schools. Instead, these folks should think about their children and their grandchildren. Maybe their kids go to private schools but there are any number of kids out there who desperately need the help.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/18/14

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