On 8 February 2018, the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor and Commissioner, and the Board of Regents, who are together responsible for the general supervision of all educational activities in the state,1 filed a lawsuit against the State University of New York (SUNY) Charter Schools Committee and other SUNY committees for adopting a proposal in which charter schools would not need to hire certified teachers, but could grant certification to their own novice teachers (Clukey, 2018). Such a process, Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Elia argued, would lower standards and ‘allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children most in need – students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities – in SUNY authorized charter schools’ (Prothero, 2017). A lawsuit, in which the Chancellor, Commissioner and the Regents challenged the charter schools, would have been unthinkable until recently, if for no other reason than the fact that the previous Chancellor, Merryl Tisch, was a strong supporter of charter schools; indeed, so strong that she now sits on the SUNY Charter School Committee (State University of New York, no date) that passed the proposal to have charter schools certify their own teachers.
To understand how New York's leading policymakers came to sue several committees, including the SUNY Charter Schools Committee, one needs to understand how parents, teachers and students have reasserted the right of the public to determine or at least have a strong say about education policy against those who wish to adopt neoliberal reforms of privatisation, accountability based on scores on standardised tests and managerial techniques that shift power away from teachers and parents towards philanthropists, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hedge fund managers and investors (Hursh, 2015). The lawsuit reflects the increasing resistance from New York State parents, students, educators and community members to neoliberal reforms, including the privatisation of education, the Common Core State Standards and assessing students, teachers and schools via standardised tests.
Our focus in this chapter is explicitly on the two most influential opt-out groups in New York State, namely, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) and Long Island Opt Out (LIOO).