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All educators could face sanctions for low test scores

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Sail on home to Jesus won't you good girls and boys; I'm all in pieces, you can have your own choice

SEPT. 26, 2012: ALBANY (GPI) - An effort to link low student test scores to underachieving educators — and hold those educators publicly accountable — drew sharp criticism today from one of the state's teachers unions.

That is, until the union's leadership read the fine print of the proposed law.

“Wait a second,” said Anita Rays, executive director of Teachers United Against That, Too. “So this isn't about teachers, it's about parents? Never mind.”

The proposed legislation by Assemblyman Hy Penshun would require “home-based educators” to take remedial parenting courses if their children are not able to recite the alphabet and write their name on the first day of kindergarten. More stringent parent evaluations would also occur when students are in 4th, 8th and 11th grades.

Failure to attend remedial training would lead to penalties including revocation of the parent's driver's license. Parents' names would also appear in a newspaper legal notice the following week under the title: My Child Didn't Fail; I Did.

“Look, it's garbage in, garbage out,” said Assemblyman Penshun, who owns a trash hauling business in the Bronx. “You got these urchins, and don't get me wrong, I love kids, but they're coming into school without a home-based educator ever taking two minutes to read to them or make them write something. And then they do nothing with their kids for another 12 years? This has to stop. We need to hold these educators responsible and accountable.”

Penshun said too many parents have decided that government is responsible for children's education from A to Z and from the age of 1 to 18.

“By the time students get to high school, you can't fix a parent's indifference,” he continued. “These SUNY schools will give you an education degree, but they can't make you a certified 'miracle worker.'”

Penshun noted that over the course of the year parents have far more time than school-based educators to help their children educationally.

“I tell parents, 'Do the math, that is, if you know how,'” said Penshun. “Your kid is in a class like English or government for 40 minutes a day for 185 school days. That's 7,400 minutes. Now, stay with me here... that's 123 hours which is just over five days. In other words, each teacher has got only five days out of 365 in a year to rewire the chucklehead you sent to school with a smiley face note reading, “Dear teacher: Tag, you're it.'”

Civil liberty groups are finding themselves in a quandary over the proposed legislation. They say they want children protected from harm, but generally they feel more comfortable bringing class action lawsuits against institutions rather than individuals.

"It's not that we will only go after someone with deep pockets, it's just that we don't have the manpower to go door-to-door to sort this out,” said Mark N. Tyme of the Union of My Civil Liberties First Lawyers.

Penshun is also getting blow back from the state department of transportation regarding his desire to tie parent performance to the right to have a driver's license. An estimated 20,000 parents could be affected by the law at any one time. Fewer cars on the road means a cleaner environment, but it also means less tax collected on gasoline sales.

“It just like taxes on cigarettes,” said Penshun. “The state says it doesn't want you to smoke, but if everyone stopped smoking we'd go bankrupt tomorrow.”

Penshun said there is a widening performance gap in schools, and it is all based on whether parents make educating their children a daily discipline for themselves.

“I've heard about this chemistry teacher in Watertown, wherever that is, who created a lullaby using the entire periodic table,” said Penshun. “That's a little kooky, I think, but his kids grew up pretty smart. The point is, parents need to have a plan to make sure their children are educated.”

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the governor is expected to support the proposal if Penshun wins re-election in November.

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