Education for Lifelong Learning & Citizenship
A great challenge facing the people of the United States is to educate ourselves to build a just, sustainable, democratic future and become responsible citizens of the local and global communities we share. The Green Party believes every child deserves a quality public education that fosters critical and holistic thought, and provides the breadth and depth of learning necessary to become a constructive member of society. We do not believe our public school system, as it presently operates, helps us reach that goal.
The Green Party views learning as a lifelong and life-affirming process to which all people should have equal access. We cannot state more forcefully our belief that in learning, and in openness to learning, we find the foundation of our Platform. It is commonplace to say that education should not cease when one leaves school. When this commonplace expression is taken seriously it reveals the true purpose of school, to ensure the continuance of education throughout life by organizing the experience of the student, and the students’ understanding of backward and forward connections between consequences and events, to ensure continued growth. This basic truth is lost when education is narrowly viewed as preparation for a later phase in life. The Green Party believes in education, not training or indoctrination. We do not think that schools should turn our children into students, employees, consumers or citizens who are servile. We must teach our children and youth to ask questions, to develop critical consciousness, to be leaders; and we must challenge them with great works of literature, science, economics, philosophy, history, music, and the arts.
The Green Party is strongly opposed to the movement toward privatization of education through charter schools that are not accountable to the public, vouchers and other mechanisms that take education out of the public domain. We believe that the best educational experience is guaranteed by the democratic empowerment of organized students, their parents, educators and other community stakeholders.
We also call attention to the results of a quarter century of corporate funding from the likes of the Bradley Foundation, Wal-Mart Family Foundations, the Gates Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation and a decade of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — a vast, well-endowed sector which seeks to regiment schools through rigid standardization, to reduce the influence of teachers unions, and to privatize or dismantle public education. We are especially troubled by the growing power of corporate educational consultancies that are using the conjunction of the Common Core State Standards (know as Common Core Learning Standards in New York), high stakes testing and data mining to influence the educational agenda in ways that usurp public control of schools and the education of our children.
We must stop the disinvestment in public education and instead put it at the top of our social, economic and political agenda. Too many of our teachers are overworked, underpaid, and starved of key resources. We must be more generous to our schools so that our children will learn what generosity is, and know enough to be able to be generous to others in return.
Education for Lifelong Learning & Citizenship
2-1. Guarantee Free Public Education from Pre-K thru 4 Yr. Post-secondary School: The Green Party views education for life-long learning and citizenship as a pillar of democracy and essential for economic justice. All children are entitled to a free, quality public education from pre-k through four years of post high school education. Toward that end, we support the Say Yes Scholars program that provides free college tuition at New York State Colleges and private compact schools for qualified students. The Green Party calls for the expansion of the Say Yes Scholars program to include tuition for remedial courses that prepare students for college level work and funding for trade schools. In the long term, we support free public higher education for all not just residents of Syracuse who qualify as Say Yes Scholars.
2-2. Strengthen Our Public Education System: The Green Party considers a strong public education system that is adequately funded to provide a quality education to every student in every school in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) to be essential for the economic and cultural development of our community. We call for the immediate restoration of state funding to 2007 levels and structural reform of the state funding formula to guarantee equity funding to urban and rural school districts to eliminate state funding inequities that have forced the SCSD to eliminate large numbers of instructional personnel and essential resources.
2-2a. Establish Fiscal Equity for State Funding: We support the goals advocated by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) to advance the legal rights of all New York schoolchildren to a sound basic and quality education under state and federal law. We call for full implementation of the Foundation Aid Formula established through the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007 that was designed to ensure adequacy and equity in state school funding by establishing a relationship between state aid, the needs of students and a district’s ability to raise revenue; and the restoration of all funds lost in the intervening years due to state budget cuts.
2-2b. Give the SCSD Board of Education Full Tax & Budget Authority: Local taxes comprise about 18% of the current SCSD budget. We support state legislation to give the “Big Five” city school districts, which includes Syracuse the option to have the same financial authority held by other school districts in the state. The Syracuse City School Board, which sets educational policy, should have the power to set spending levels and tax rates for the SCSD, subject only to a public vote as is the case for other districts throughout New York State.
2-2c. Use Progressive Taxes to Support Public Education: We believe that the quality of a child’s education should not depend upon the wealth of their local community. Therefore, we believe that the long term solution to inequities in school funding requires progressive, broad-based taxes as an alternative to the regressive property tax. The state must guarantee that adequate funding is available for schools in every community to meet minimum standards for education.
2-2d. Link Economic Development and Educational Policy: We call for the city and county to link economic development and educational policy to focus on inner city economic revitalization and mandate a percentage of jobs created be available for local residents so students can believe their education will lead to real job opportunities and improvement in the quality of their lives.
2-3. Create Neighborhood-Based Community Schools: The Green Party believes that student and community interests are best served by neighborhood-based community schools that have strong partnerships with the communities in which they are located. We believe that schools which are fully integrated into the community by contributing to the quality of life of the neighborhood and benefiting from its support are safer and stronger with students who are more committed and successful.
2-3a Redraw School Feeder Patterns to Increase Diversity: We recognize the effect that race, class and housing discrimination have in low performing schools thereby causing many families to transfer away from their neighborhood schools. To address this problem we call for the SCSD to redraw school feeder patterns so as to reduce segregation and increase diversity in schools (see also section 3-2).
2-3b. Distribute Resources Equitably: The SCSD must distribute resources among schools to create an equitable allocation that provides all students with the resources required to meet their educational needs at their neighborhood schools.
2-3c. Increase the Percentage of Students Who Choose Neighborhood schools: We believe that by allocating resources equitably across all schools, more students will choose to attend their neighborhood schools, thus reducing the number of administrative transfer requests and saving a significant portion of 5% of the district’s annual budget that is currently spent on busing. Funds not spent on busing students who transfer to schools out of their neighborhood could be reallocated to the classroom to improve classroom instruction and enhance classroom resources.
2-3d. Open Schools for Life Long Education, Recreation and Socialization: We consider schools to be valuable community assets that are underutilized. Schools belong to the community and should be open from early morning to late evening to provide life-long educational, recreational, and social opportunities for community members.
2-3e. Use the Community as a Classroom: Communities offer learning opportunities for students, such as ecology education at local parks, entrepreneurship education at local businesses, and civic engagement at Neighborhood Assemblies and neighborhood organizational meetings. We call for engaging students in community educational activities during and after the school day.
2-3f. Provide Neighborhood Services in Schools: We believe that schools should serve as neighborhood centers housing services such as health and mental health care, day care centers, food pantries, recreational activities and continuing education for all ages, and space for Neighborhood Assemblies and other community organizations to meet.
2-3g. Provide Residency Incentives for SCSD Staff: The Green Party believes that administrators, teachers, and other staff who live in the communities they serve are better equipped to understand the dynamics of specific neighborhoods and student needs. We believe the best way to advance community residency for SCSD staff is to establish a proactive incentive program that rewards them for living in the City of Syracuse.
2-4. Engage Community Stakeholders in the Shared Responsibility of Education: The Green Party strongly supports the SCSD “Family and Community Involvement Policy” (#1900) that states, “Education is the shared responsibility of the student, family, school, and community.” We consider the strength of partnerships developed between community stakeholders and schools to be a vital factor in determining student success and find the district’s efforts to engage community stakeholders in the work of education to lag far behind what is required. Therefore we call for the district to redouble its efforts to develop, implement and evaluate its community involvement policies and practices.
2-4a. Convene a District Wide Shared Responsibility Task Force: We call for the formation of a district-wide task force comprised of students, family members, teachers and other school personnel, and community members to create greater opportunities for effective community stakeholder engagement. Members should be self-selected for this task force based on an expressed interest and a commitment to do the necessary work, and the task force should identify steps to be taken at the neighborhood and district levels to better implement SCSD Policy #1900.
2-4b. Restructure & Expand Shared Decision-Making in Site Based Planning: We call for restructuring and expanding the current school improvement process to develop and advance authentic family and community stakeholder participation in site-based-planning and shared decision-making to address barriers to parent and community member participation, such as when meetings are held, how agendas are created, how meetings are conducted, how information is shared and the balance between community stakeholders and staff members.
2-5. Support Teachers & Instructional Staff: We strongly believe that teachers and other instructional staff play a vital role in the growth and academic success of students. We object to the way that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and “high stakes” testing are being used in the evaluation of teachers ( see also section 2-7). These practices, along with the an excessive reliance on “outside consultants” as change agents devalues the knowledge and experience of teachers as professional educators and undermines the support they need to be effective. It is essential that teachers and other instructional staff are provided with the necessary time, material resources and support to fully utilize their knowledge and experience in educating students and working collaboratively with all stakeholders to create classroom and school environments conducive to the growth and academic success of students.
2-6. Focus Resources on Classroom Instruction & Student Growth: The Green Party calls for the SCSD to target any increased revenues that become available for classroom instruction and direct student support to improve the material conditions of students and educators. Activities that we deem especially worthy of additional funding are:
- Universal Pre-K;
- Up-to-date textbooks, classroom technology;
- Remedial programs for students not achieving at grade level;
- Enrichment programs for advanced students at all levels;
- Reduced class size.
2-7. Create a Positive Educational Culture with Safe & Orderly Schools: The Green Party believes a positive educational culture is an essential component of academic success. We support the development and implementation of an effective Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in every school that offers incentives for positive student engagement and defines universal expectations for positive student behavior to create a positive learning community in every school.
2-7a. Provide Alternative In-School Education & Support for Disruptive Students: We believe that every school must provide space and personnel for alternative educational programs and support services for disruptive students who need to be removed from the classrooms for disciplinary reasons. We call for the district to ensure that students on in-school-suspension (ISS) receive at least the same level and intensity of instruction as they would in the classroom and additional support services that address the root causes of the disruptive behaviors.
2-7b. Use Out-Of-School Suspension as a Means of Last Resort: We assert that out-of-school suspension (OSS) should be the option of last resort to be utilized only when the well being of students or school personnel is threatened. We are mindful of the ways in which race, ethnicity, class and gender factor into ISS and OSS, and we implore the district to ensure that disciplinary problems are handled evenly across all demographic categories.
2-7c. Update and Consistently Apply the District-Wide Disciplinary Policy: We recognize the efforts that the SCSD is taking to address current issues related to the content and application of the district’s code of conduct. We fully support an open and transparent process that involves students, teachers and other building personnel, district-wide personnel, families, and community stakeholders in the continuing review of the Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities and Code of Conduct and related SCSD disciplinary policies Any resulting policy must insure the civil and educational rights of all students. Penalties imposed for disruptive behaviors must take student learning into account. Students and parents must be fully informed of their rights and responsibilities with regard to disciplinary action, and OSS must be the action of last resort. Any disciplinary action taken in the schools must be imposed equitably across all gender and demographic categories. The use of “termination of the day” disciplinary action must cease immediately.
2-8. Develop an Assessment System Focused on Student & Teacher Growth: The Green Party considers qualitative and quantitative assessments of student progress and teacher effectiveness to be essential to achieving growth and accountability. We recognize the value of a comprehensive assessment system to provide teachers with qualitative and quantitative data that guides instruction, promotes student learning (including critical thinking skills) and ensures accountability.
2-8a. Assert Local Control over Student, Teacher & Administrator Assessment: We believe that teachers and school building administrators must be accountable for student intellectual development, including classroom instruction and creating building environments conducive to learning. We call for teachers to be given greater authority in decision-making regarding student assessments than is currently the case under the existing Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) protocol and state mandated testing protocols. Decisions to reassign or fire teachers and close schools should not be based upon student performance on standardized tests, but rather on an assessment system based upon multiple factors using locally developed or approved tools that meet state standards.
2-8b. Empower Families, Educators & Communities to Control Their Schools: We are fundamentally opposed to the proliferation of “high stakes testing” implemented in response to federal and state mandates that creates a test focused ethos and draws valuable time and resources from teaching and learning. We are especially troubled by the growing power of corporate educational consultancies that are using the conjunction of the Common Core State Standards (know as Common Core Learning Standards in New York), highs takes testing, and data mining to influence the educational agenda in ways that usurp public control of schools and the education of their children. We believe the SCSD should not outsource control over the assessment of students’ intellectual development to private companies that seek to re-organize education in ways that serve their ideological and market interests rather than the educational interests of students and the local community. We call for efforts to educate students, families and school personnel about their options regarding high stakes testing. We encourage the district to join others in resisting state and federal mandates that threaten reduced funding for schools that opt-out of high stakes testing and we call for an end to data mining programs that provide private corporations with access to student and family data.
2-9. Provide Differentiated Instruction & Targeted Supports: The Green Party believes that for all students to achieve at a level commensurate with their talents it is essential to provide differentiated instruction and targeted supports based on the learning style and needs of each student. To this end, classroom teachers must be provided with the authority, adequate support staff and necessary resources in the classroom to individualize instruction, content and technique to maximize individual student leaning.
2-10. Provide a Diverse Curriculum beyond the Required Basic Education: The Green Party supports the 2003 court’s decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity vs. State of New York case which defined the constitutional responsibility of New York “to provide a system of common schools wherein all children may be educated,” to mean “a sound basic education” that includes an “opportunity for a meaningful high school education, one which prepares them to function productively as civic participants.” We understand this to include a basic core curriculum that prepares students to meet the minimum requirements for a high school degree in New York State and a robust, differentiated curriculum with offerings in career, technical and vocational education, technology and engineering, the arts and other courses that provide opportunities to expand students’ educational horizons, explore their interests, develop their talents to the fullest extent possible.
2-11. Provide Healthy School Environments that Support Sustainable Communities: The Green Party calls for the SCSD to address the nutritional and environmental health of students and provide them with healthy ways to communicate, relate, make decisions and resolve conflicts. The district should provide healthy school meals that are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, and offer plant-based vegetarian options. The sale of sodas, sweet drinks and junk food should be replaced by healthy snacks; and pouring rights programs that use schools as vehicles for corporate promotions should be banned.
2-11a. Teach Non-Violent Strategies: We encourage the teaching of non-violent communication and decision-making to students, such as cooperation over competitiveness, consensus building, and the impact of language on relationships in order to help reduce violence in the schools and community. Non-violent communication and decision-making should also be practiced at all levels within the school environment.
2-11b. Develop Farm-to-School & School-Based Gardening Programs: We urge the SCSD to develop relationships with local growers leading to farm-to-school programs that provide food from local farms and educational opportunities for students to learn about sustainable agriculture. We also urge schools to enhance existing school-based organic gardening programs and establish new programs in as many schools as possible that educate students in areas such as ecology, biology, math and English language arts and provide food for school meal programs and to be taken home for family meals.
2-11c. Provide Students with Daylight Illumination Wherever Feasible: We recognize research that documents the greater benefits of natural lighting over artificial fluorescent lighting and urge the design of schools to take advantage of daylight illumination in educational spaces wherever possible.
2-11d. Test for Toxins & Provide Remediation as Required: We call for the district to provide a healthy environment for students that is free of toxins in building materials and of particulate matter that filters into classrooms from idling buses and other machinery.
2-11e. Provide Outdoor Time for Students in All Grades: We find compelling evidence to support the relationship between times spent in outdoor activities and increases in the health and well-being of individuals. We consider the elimination of recess time for younger students in favor of increased instructional time to be a false economy; and we believe that scheduling should provide time for students to be out-of-doors during the school day for recreational or education purposes.
2-12. Enhance the JSCB Master Plan Implementation: The Green Party supports the Joint School Construction Board (JSCB) Phase II legislation (S3435-A DeFrancisco / A-472-A Magnorelli) and implementation of Phase II construction to continue the school district’s facility modernization program for an additional 20 facility projects. We also urge the JSCB to be more proactive in developing a Phase III plan as soon as the funding and plan for implementation of Phase II is in place. We oppose recent changes to the composition of the JSCB that reduce the 3 seats currently held by Syracuse Common Councilors and the 3 seats currently held by Board of Education Commissioners to 1 Councilor appointed by the Mayor and 1 Commissioner appointment by the SCSD Superintendent.