Press Release: JLUSA and AQE Unite to Denounce Lack of Meaningful Action in Albany on Jails and Schools

June 18, 2018

Julia Watson, Communications Coordinator | 978-518-0729

Leading Criminal Justice and Education Organizations Unite to Denounce Lack of Meaningful Action in Albany on Jails and Schools -Setting Up the Issues as Oppositional in Legislative Big UglyCall On Governor Cuomo to Come Out of the Shadows & Provide Some Leadership

ALBANY, NY (June 18, 2018) — JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) join forces to demand first that Governor Cuomo commit to the decoupling of criminal justice reform from education issues. Secondly, we demand meaningful leadership both on bail reform and repeal of the existing teacher evaluation law.  The State Senate’s latest “Big Ugly” legislation (S9097) links bail reform language to APPR teacher evaluations, the perpetuation of standardized testing, charter schools, and religious schools. This evokes a strategy deployed last year to link Raise the Age legislation to funding for charter schools. The same communities are impacted by both of these issues across New York State, and we need strong, bold reform on both issues.

“Governor Cuomo’s lack of meaningful leadership on both criminal justice reform and repeal of the existing teacher evaluation law has created a situation where Albany now appears to be hurtling towards a ‘Big Ugly’ which pits public students against New Yorkers who are facing arrest and detention. Any coupling of education and criminal justice reform can only lead to bad outcomes on both.  We find ourselves in this scenario because Governor Cuomo cares more about headlines than actually helping the most vulnerable New Yorkers. What we need is full repeal of the failed APPR teacher evaluation system – so that students will benefit from less, not more, testing – not added expansion of charter schools, a rejection of any proposal to undermine the quality of education in religious schools, and real bail reform that ends money bail. To get there, Governor Cuomo needs to come out of the shadows and provide some leadership,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director, Alliance for Quality Education.

The Republican leadership in the State Senate introduced this bill heading into the final week of the legislative session in a clear indication that they are attempting to utilize unrelated issues to drive session-ending negotiations.

“New York State must not, empower ‘reform’ like that in the Big Ugly, that causes harm and entrenches systemic inequality — in either the criminal justice system or in education. Grassroots organizing and the leadership of directly impacted New Yorkers has led us to a moment of incredible momentum in the overhaul of the pretrial system and an end to New York’s jail crisis. If Governor Cuomo wants to champion these reforms, he should make it clear to New Yorkers, his constituents, and the Senate Democrats that he opposes coupling education and criminal justice reform, particularly in ways that make bold reform on either issue untenable. JustLeadershipUSA continues to call for bold and meaningful reform and demands an end to money bail entirely and protects against harmful “alternatives” that entrench criminalization and injustice in the system.” said Erin George, New York State Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA.

About Senate Bill S9097

On bail, Senate Bill S9097 entrenches the racialized and harmful system of cash bail, as it stands today, and locks it in as a primary option in pretrial adjudication for most charges. S9097 goes even further backward in creating a system-wide electronic monitoring mechanism that could be applied to nearly anyone who comes into contact with the criminal legal system. Finally, even while creating a minor presumption of release for select charges, S9097 would allow judges and prosecutors to make non-evidentiary and personal determinations about people that would jeopardize their freedom and their fair shot at justice and transparency. S9097 would allow considerations of a person’s “reputation” and “youthful offender status” to be factored into a decision about whether to allow someone to fight their charges from home or return to their community under supervisory conditions, or to detain someone who is legally innocent.

Taken together, S9097 not only undermines a presumption of innocence that should and must accompany anyone accused of a crime, but also almost creates a presumption of guilt that is levied on someone as soon they’re charged. This regressive posturing flies in the face of what Governor Cuomo promised in his 2018 State of the State address, and it is diametrically opposed to the values that #FREEnewyork has fought for in demanding groundbreaking overhaul to New York’s bail system.

On education, the Senate Bill S9097, like the Assembly would eliminate the use of state standardized tests for evaluating teachers substituting other tests which are both approved by the Commissioner of Education and collectively bargained. The legislation does nothing to reduce testing for students and in fact could increase the amount of testing faced by students. A complete repeal of Governor Cuomo’s APPR teacher evaluation system would both eliminate the use of tests for teacher evaluations and reduce testing for students. But Governor Cuomo has refused to support such a position.

On charter schools the Senate legislation would allow over 100 new privately-run charter schools to open up in New York City–more than doubling the number in current law. Governor Cuomo receives a tremendous amount of campaign contributions from hedge fund managers who invest in charter schools and has a consistent track record of supporting expansion of privately run charter schools and increased funding for them.

On religious schools, specifically yeshivas, the legislation would lower the academic standards and virtually eliminate the power of the Commissioner of Education to regulate the quality of education in these schools.

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