New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has scheduled an informational picket for this Sunday outside the Education Reform Now (ERN) Camp Philos conference at Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid. NYSUT is calling their event “Picket in the Pines,” referencing its Central Adirondacks location. In a press statement released today, the union characterizes the Camp Philos event as a gathering of hedge fund managers and billionaires seeking to privatize public schools and siphon money away from school districts to fill the pockets of Wall Street tycoons. Governor Andrew Cuomo will attend the $1,000-per-person, three-day event as the Honorary Chairman.
In an interview today with Examiner.com, NYSUT spokesperson Carl Korn said that increasingly they are seeing hedge fund managers and billionaires making "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in campaign contributions. Their aim is to impose more standardized testing, expand charter schools and shut teachers out of decision-making. “Solutions to what’s best for students are found in classrooms, not conference rooms where hedge fund managers meet,” says Korn. He notes that public schools have been devastated by budget cuts made since 2008. Parents and educators support a greater investment in the public schools, which educate 97 percent of New York’s children.
“Public education is not for sale.” — Carl Korn, NYSUT Spokesperson
The Camp Philos retreat sessions include workshops on charter schools, teacher preparation programs and school finance. The teachers’ union notes that actual educators were not invited to the event. Attendees will be politicians and wealthy campaign contributors. Two leaders of Democrats for Education Reform, ERN’s Political Action Committee, have donated a combined total of more than $600,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s political campaigns, NYSUT reports.
Democrats for Education Reform Executive Director Joe Williams ridiculed the teachers’ planned protest in an April 30 blog post, suggesting that the picketers would be NYSUT paid staffers who should spend their time in Lake Placid drinking beer, bowling and visiting the Cake Placid bakery. His overall message was that the picketers would accomplish nothing more than a boost to the local economy. Williams’ biography claims his credentials in education come from being “…one of the most prolific writers and commentators in the education reform world.”
Korn says that they have received an outpouring of support from teachers and parents across the state for the Picket in the Pines protest. NYSUT has five or six busses driving to Lake Placid on Sunday, which will be carrying more than 300 supporters for the event. Of these, a “handful” may be paid staffers. The picket will be held between 4 and 5 p.m. outside the Whiteface Lodge.