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Pressure Increases on State Ed Chief as Forum Debate Continues

12:31 PM, Oct 18, 2013   |    comments
John King
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By Jon Campbell,  Albany Bureau

ALBANY Two state lawmakers have now called on state Education Commissioner John King to resign, as the backlash from the cancellation of public forums on the Common Core curriculum continues.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Mt. Pleasant, Westchester County, and Nassau County Sen. Jack Martins, a Republican, have each issued statements urging King to step down.

The pressure results from King's decision to back out of four remaining state Parent Teacher Association forums on the Common Core, a set of tougher standards being implemented across school systems nationwide. King's cancellation came after the first forum in Poughkeepsie last week, where he was shouted down by attendees angered by the state's testing requirements and the amount of time allotted for public comment at the meeting.

"For quite some time, Education Commissioner John King has closed off all meaningful conversation with parents, educators, administrators and elected officials who have highlighted serious deficiencies in state Education Department policies," Abinanti said in a statement Thursday. "He has exhibited a conscious disregard for their concerns."

"Commissioner King should resign immediately," he continued.

King has defended his decision to step away from the PTA events, which he says were "co-opted by special interests" who oppose the state's education reforms. The meetings did not allow for a "constructive context for dialogue," he said Tuesday.

Harry Phillips, a member of the Education Department's Board of Regents, said it's clear King made mistakes in his handling of the forum and its aftermath, but said the board has no plans to replace him.

Specifically, King should have left more time for public comments and misused the term "special interests" while outlining his reasons for canceling the forums, Phillips said Friday in an interview with Gannett's Albany Bureau.

"The commissioner made a few mistakes and he understands it. The board understands it," said Phillips, of Hartsdale, Westchester County. "He's a good, smart guy, and the Regents are not going to get rid of John King."

Meanwhile, a flurry of new public forums on the Common Core are beginning to pop up.

The state Education Department has been working on a new set of meetings that will follow a different format, potentially with a professional moderator overseeing the discussion. The location of those meetings is expected to be announced soon after the venues are finalized.

The New York State United Teachers union and the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group partially funded by the union, announced their own set of meetings, which will be held in the Capital Region, Syracuse, western New York and on Long Island. Firm dates and locations were not immediately announced.

"Parents and educators need to be heard, not silenced," Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said in a statement. "These forums will provide that opportunity."

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