Should Governor Hochul Tell You How to Teach Reading?
In August, 2021 Kathy Hochul, the unknown lieutenant-governor of New York State replaced Andrew Cuomo, who resigned facing impeachment. Cuomo moved from “the nation’s governor,” saving New Yorkers from the COVID plague to another abuser.
Entering her third budget cycle Hochul has been stumbling, bickering with the legislature as well as other stakeholders across the state.
The legislature returns to Albany in January and governors lay out their program in the State of the State speech. This year held next Tuesday, January 9th at 1 pm before a joint meeting of both houses of the state legislature. At the end of January governors release their preliminary budget, a hundred plus page document detailing how the 200 billion dollar budget will address state issues.
For the past twenty years the budget included many non-budgetary issues, bypassing the normal legislative process. The Court of Appeals affirmed the power. See Pataki v Silver and Cuomo stuffed the budget with controversial items, for example adding a year to teacher probation in 2015 after the teacher union failed to endorse him in September, 2014 primary.
Hochul’s first budget was thwarted by the legislature, her preliminary budget renewed mayoral control for four years, the legislature refused to include in the budget and renewed for two years.
In the waning days of the 2022 session the legislature passed the Class Size Reduction Law and with her opponent narrowing the election gap in her election run, she signed the bill and the state teacher union endorsed her. A win-win.
In the 2023 session Hochul announced a plan to build 800,000 affordable housing units primarily in suburban communities over the next decade. The plan would have given the governor the authority to override restrictive local zoning requirements. The opposition was substantial, from Democrats as well as Republicans. Former New York City mayor Bloomberg donated $5 million to Hochul to blanket the state with TV commercials endorsing her plan (“Call your legislator”), in return Hochul attempted to eliminate the regional charter school cap, over 100 new charter schools would have opened in New York City, the budget approval was delayed two weeks as the legislature refused to cave, with a very angry teacher union, whose endorsement had been crucial to Hochul’s 2022 election victory.
Hochul is beginning her third budget cycle on a conciliatory note, she is rolling out her State of the State in previews.
Hochul has jumped on the “back to basics” bandwagon and is endorsing the “Science of Reading” faction in the Reading Wars.
The Board of Regents and the State Education Department has stated again and again, curriculum is a local responsibility, the state sets the standards and the school district the pathway. (See New Generation NYS Standards).
School districts and schools use a range of reading methodologies, some phonics-based, some balanced literacy and many elements of both.
Last year New York City jumped on the phonics train, half the districts are introducing phonics this year and the remainder next year. The teacher union approved after the city agreed that the professional development would be led by the UFT Teacher Center staff.
Hochul’s speech, unfortunately, was filled with errors, watch here
Diane Ravitch, in detail, explains there is no science of reading and the supporters misuse the so-called evidence. See “Phonics is important but there is not a science of reading” here and “Literacy expert: there is no science of reading” here.
The providers of professional development are ecstatic, the governor is providing $10 million to “train” teachers and school districts may be required to purchase additional texts costing millions.
My reading expert friends say phonics is important, as is finding books that excite the imagination of the kid. I’ve watched my seven year old grandson sound out words and devour books about dinosaurs.
There is a magic bullet: getting kids to come to school every day, chronic absenteeism is endemic. The evidence is not surprising and is overwhelming. Read here.
A decade ago a Center for NYC Affairs research project, “A Better Picture of Poverty” compared reading scores with absence, and, surprise, surprise, the scores aligned, the greater the absence the lower the scores. The project also created a Poverty Risk Index, in and out of school factors impacting academic achievement, and, once again, the higher the risk load the lower academic achievement.
While the new NYSUT president enthusiastically approved of Hochul’s endorsement of phonics teachers are far from ecstatic, being told by the governor that after years of teaching you’re using the wrong materials or teaching the wrong way is irritating. From the union point of view you need the governor to support improving Tier 6.
Let’s see whether the State of the State or the preliminary budget is teacher-friendly.
In the world of politics you pick your battles.
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