The teachers union and its allies will protest outside the state’s annual Business Council meeting in Lake George on Wednesday. The union is upset over a speech to be given by former CNN anchor and now charter school advocate Campbell Brown.
Brown is the featured speaker at the yearly event, at the posh Sagamore Resort on Lake George. It often features top politicians, but seldom attracts demonstrations.
This year, it will be different. The state teachers’ union, New York State United Teachers, and its affiliated group AQE (Alliance for Quality Education) plans to bring hundreds of teachers, parents and others to voice their disagreement with Brown’s ideas.
Billy Easton, with AQE, calls Brown a front person for billionaire Wall Street executives who he says fund the charter school movement at the expense of public school. He says the Business Council “made a mistake” in inviting her.
“We’re exposing her from land, air and sea,” said Easton. He says that in addition to traditional picketing, protesters will be on boats in the waters surrounding the hotel. They've hired a small plane to fly overhead with a banner.
Brown issued a statement before her speech.
“I am honored to have the opportunity tonight to speak to an enormously influential community, which has the power to drive real and meaningful change in our education system,” said Brown. “The future of America’s workforce depends on taking concrete steps to fix many of the issues plaguing our schools. I look forward to working with these business leaders to accomplish our ultimate goal, providing all 74 million children with a quality education.”
Brown also commented on the planned protests, saying she’s raising “legitimate questions about the crisis in America’s schools."
“Instead of engaging in an honest debate about how best to serve our 74 million children, the unions and their supporters want to shout me down,” she said.
Brown has opposed many teachers union policies and practices. She’s worked to require greater background checks for teachers and has voiced support for a lawsuit to weaken teacher tenure. She is on the board of New York City-based charter school network Success Academy.
One of her websites, the Partnership for Educational Justice, says its goal is to help students and their families “advocate for the great public schools they deserve," with a particular focus on low income students.
The teacher’s union is trying to discourage state lawmakers from attending the speech, says Easton. He says he’s talked with state legislators, including Republican Assemblymembers, who say they are skipping the event.
A spokesman for the Business Council says they have not heard of any state lawmakers cancelling their attendance at Brown’s speech.
The Business Council President, Heather Briccetti, gave this statement: “It is ironic and troubling that just days into the school year the teacher’s union is asking its members to spend their energy trying to repress opposing views rather than focus on fixing the crisis in our schools.”
Briccetti calls results from public charter school “promising."
This story has been updated since first published.