The following is Deborah Escobar’s prepared opening statement that she read at the Meet the Candidates Night on Monday, May 13.
“Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about why I am running for re-election to the Mohonasen school board.
When I first ran three years ago, I did so because I knew that public education was under attack. Hedgefund investors were using their money and influence to attack public schools in an attempt to privatize education. They pushed reforms like standardized testing in an effort to label public schools, teachers, and students as failures. This is why I became an education activist in 2014. While I feel that my background has been helpful to the Mohonasen community, unfortunately things have not improved over the last three years.
Although minimal changes have taken place, test scores are still based on inflated benchmarks that are not developmentally appropriate, falsely labeling large numbers of our students as not proficient. For example, only 24% of eighth grade students were marked proficient on the 2016 State math test, yet 74% of the same cohort passed the Algebra 1 Regents exam a year later. For a data-driven education movement, they pay little attention to the glaring facts that tell us standardized testing has been a failure.
This year, even though the State Education Department and Regents declared that parents are allowed to opt-out, they doubled down when they scored opt-outs as zeroes for placing schools on the ESSA accountability list, and made the majority of criteria for the list dependent on state test scores. This unfairly penalized schools like our own Draper Middle School. I say this to our Governor, legislators, Commissioner Elia, and Regents. Our children are not political pawns. Though all schools can, and should, improve, it is unethical to skew unreliable testing results in order to label a school a failure. I am Mohon Proud and our schools are quality schools, as evidenced by our high graduation rate.
This year we did not receive enough foundation aid from the state to meet our budget. Stuck between a tax cap that has now become permanent, and a Governor who refuses to acknowledge the need and importance of adequate school funding, we had to make some heart wrenching decisions and let valuable people go. We may have lost the battle this year, but we must continue the fight to make sure that our students receive what they deserve in the way of foundation aid, and that legislators help us find answers for the problems of high health insurance and rising prescription costs. I ask for your vote to keep me in that fight.
I would also like to say that I am honored to run alongside Chad McFarland, who proved his worth to the school board in a previous term, and I hope to work with him once again. Thank you.”