Cuomo’s Plan to ‘Reimagine’ Education with Gates Foundation Draws Ire
“The education of our children has been repeatedly put at risk by their [The Gates Foundation’s] non-evidence based ‘solutions'”
During a press conference Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to reimagine the state’s education system by enlisting the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cuomo said, “the old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class… all these buildings, all these physical classrooms. Why with all the technology?”
The Gates Foundation has poured billions of dollars into experimental education policies including smaller classrooms and schools, evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, and spying on students. However, many of these experiments have failed with the Gates Foundation later pulling the plug.
An accompanying press statement announcing the collaboration is sparse on specific details, including if the state is paying for the Gates Foundation’s help, but it includes seven bullet points that all mention technology.
Concerned parents, teachers, and activists expressed their immediate disappointment with the announcement considering the Gates Foundation’s failures and lack of input for teachers.
Three non-profits advocating public education wrote an open letter to the Governor that said, “the education of our children has been repeatedly put at risk by their [The Gates Foundation’s] non-evidence based “solutions”, which were implemented without parent input and despite significant public opposition.”
New York is still the hardest-hit state by the coronavirus, and it has precipitated a mass public health crisis that has touched all parts of the state.
But Governor Cuomo has already shown a reluctance to increase funding to fund public health. Cuomo pushed for cuts to Medicaid after coronavirus had begun to deeply impact New York, and the state legislature passed a budget with massive cuts in early April.
New York’s Gates Foundation solution is likely a prelude to public education cuts as Cuomo continues to promote austerity over increased public spending.
Cuomo’s announcement emphasized learning from the shift to remote education due to coronavirus closures and utilizing technology in education.
Without mentioning the collaboration with the Gates Foundation, the New York State United Teachers union wrote in a statement, “remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom.”
The governor’s statement said that the Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal.
The teacher’s union also wrote, “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.” The statement also called into question the governor’s commitment to funding public education.
America has been the host to multiple education fads, often funded by billionaire philanthropists. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 to Newark schools with mixed results and disappointed locals, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using the coronavirus crisis to push defunding public schools through the charter school movement.
Along with other experiments, the Gates Foundation has been a big proponent of charter schools. While the governor’s statement focused mostly on technology, without further details New York educators, parents, and students can only speculate as to the true agenda of the “re-imagining.”
Cuomo has previously drawn criticism from teacher’s unions and students for “destroying” New York schools.
“What worries me is the idea that somehow, this is the time to reimagine education, and we can somehow do that cheaply, when in fact I think a lot of investment may need to go simply toward stopping the bleeding,” said Sarah Reckhow, an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, to Chalkbeat.