Patterson, Teachers Union Slam Cuomo’s Collaboration With Gates Foundation

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5 years old child studying from home. preschool kids with computer. online remote learning with digital notebook and doing school homework

Brandon Patterson, the Democratic candidate for the coming vacant 64th District Assembly seat covering Bay Ridge and Staten Island, joined both the city and state’s teachers unions in slamming Gov. Cuomo announcing on Tuesday that he would collaborate with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others to implement more technology in education across the state.

Cuomo made the announcement in a Tuesday press briefing, saying there is the possibility of making remote learning the new normal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“We’ve all been talking about tele-education, virtual education, remote education, and there’s a lot that can be done. The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms – why, with all the technology that we have?” Cuomo said.

“It’s hard to change the status quo. But we get moments in history where people say ‘okay, I’m ready. I’m ready for change. I get it.’ I think this is one of those moments … Let’s start talking about really revolutionizing education,” he added. 

In his speech, Cuomo outlined a series of suggestions for “reimagining” the education system, all focusing on how technology can be implemented to resolve current challenges in education. These challenges include increasing access to high-quality education for all and reducing educational inequality for bilingual students, among others.

“The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed,” he said.
The words were barely out of Cuomo’s mouth when the United Federation of Teacher (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew fired back, “Anyone who wants to ‘re-imagine’ schools should go first to the people who have made the education of children their calling and their profession. Our teachers are the real experts, and they have lots of ideas about how schools could be improved.”

Educators were also quick to criticize Cuomo’s announcement, arguing that funding should be allocated to providing schools with more resources for their students, rather than revolutionizing education through remote learning.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) a statewide union with members in education, healthcare, and human service put out a statement that was even harsher.

“Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process — which is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls and socially distant in-person meetings. If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state.” 

In addition, NYSUT says the state should “recognize educators as the experts they are by including them in these discussions about improving our public education system for every student.”

Brandon Patterson

Patterson emphasized the importance in better preparing for future scenarios in which remote learning may be necessary.

 “Re-imagining education should be focusing on ensuring all students and teachers have up to date technology and resources needed so that if we face a similar crisis in the future no one skips a beat,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of permanently transitioning to digital classrooms, Patterson said “I think we’ll get back into the classroom when it’s safest for our students, teachers, and staff. We will need to invest in our education system so we’re ready for whatever challenge is next. I care about protecting the jobs of teachers across this state, and ensuring every educator and student has the most up to date technology.“

In addition, he agrees with NYSUT’s call for more physical resources in schools. “The federal government needs to get New York the tax dollars it needs to ensure we can build more classrooms, employ more teachers, and provide more resources to students, not less. I’ve been calling for this since day one in my campaign to ensure all students have the ability to succeed at the highest levels.”