Skoufis Writes Letter to Dr. John King Commissioner of Education Portraying Disappointment About Canceling Remaining Four Common Core Events

Dear Commissioner King:

It has come to my attention that, after a recent, contentious forum in the Hudson Valley, you chose to cancel the remaining four Common Core events that were scheduled with the New York State PTA. To say I was extremely disappointed in your decision would be an understatement. Now, however, there is news that you will be rescheduling the forums under a new format which I am requesting more information about.

I watched a video of the question and answer period of the Hudson Valley forum and, yes, the comments were pointed and the audience was visibly and audibly upset at times. It is my understanding that upwards of fifty audience members signed up to speak but less than ten actually had an opportunity to do so. Is it any surprise that audience members were upset that little to no time was left for them to air their concerns? I recently attended a public hearing by the Public Service Commission in Rockland County that lasted until 2:00am in order to give every member of the public an opportunity to speak. Why was there such a strict, manufactured time limit in place for your Common Core forum? Did you have someplace else to be? If so, where?

Elected and appointed officials are expected to converse with their constituents, some of which will disagree with you and some of which will express displeasure with your decisions. In my opinion, it is irresponsible, as a public official, to cancel already-scheduled forums on such an important issue that affects so many students, parents, and education professionals simply because you did not agree with the dialogue that took place.

Furthermore, I found it upsetting that your reason for canceling the remaining forums was because you felt the Hudson Valley one was hijacked by “special interests.” I have yet to see where you specifically state what or who those special interests were. I have received a tremendous volume of calls, emails, and faxes from parents who are extremely upset with your decision. Many of these parents I happen to know personally; many are members of the PTA, the organization that sponsored the forum.

Are these parents the special interests you speak of? I ask that you respond to me with a specific list of any and all “special interests” that prompted you to cancel the forums.

While I welcome the news that you are rescheduling the forums, I am concerned about any changes that further restrict a public dialogue. There should be ample time for parents to voice their concerns, not be shut down when not even twenty percent have gotten a chance to speak. In your response, please enumerate any and all changes to the format of these forums you will be implementing along with the specific dates and times they will be held.

Thank you for your time on this matter and I look forward to your response to my questions.

James Skoufis
Member of Assembly

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