Offering New Yorkers a choice
Brian Jones, a longtime contributor to Socialist Worker, in addition to being an activist and educator in New York City, has announced that he will seek the Green Party nomination to run for lieutenant governor of New York, alongside Green Party veteran Howie Hawkins, who has declared his candidacy for governor. In this statement, Brian explains why he is running--below, Howie gives endorsement of Brian's campaign.
MY NAME is Brian Jones. I am a longtime educator, activist and parent here in New York City, and I am announcing my intention to seek the Green Party's nomination for the office of Lieutenant Governor of the state of New York.
I am joining with Howie Hawkins, whom I hope the Green Party will nominate to run for Governor of the state of New York, in proposing a campaign that would challenge the policies and priorities of our current state government, of the Democratic AND Republican parties, of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and of the millionaires who support him.
I taught elementary school in New York City's public schools for nine years. I received a master's degree in Elementary Education from the City College of New York in Harlem, and I am currently studying for a doctorate in urban education at the City University of New York Graduate Center. As a teacher and a student, I have been personally invested in New York's public education system.
Governor Cuomo, like the leadership of the Democratic Party, has virtually abandoned any commitment to public education. They promote free market schemes and privatization for our schools. I want to participate in a campaign this year that will highlight for New York's voters the connections between Governor Cuomo and the charter school movement, which feeds like a vampire on public money and resources.
As an educator, I organized against charter school co-locations and against school closings and budget cuts. At some point, you have to step back from all these battles and notice the pattern--the public sector and its unions are under attack.
I have been a member of the United Federation of Teachers for the past decade. I helped to found a new social justice caucus in that union called the Movement of Rank and File Educators. I am not only a union member and supporter, I am personally involved in the effort to rebuild the strength of our unions from the bottom up. I want to participate in an election campaign that will give union members someone to vote for, someone who actually wants to expand the public sector and who actually supports unions!
A new study from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA finds that New York state's schools are the MOST segregated in the nation. This isn't surprising, since New York also has the greatest gap between rich and poor in the nation--racism and poverty have always been terrible twins in America. We have to invest in ALL of our schools, not just some of them.
We want schools that are safe, humane, child-centered places where young people are treated like intelligent human beings. That means we have to end the racist zero tolerance discipline policies and the policing of school hallways that, for thousands of mostly Black and Brown students, is the first step into what is often called a school-to-prison pipeline. We need to end stop-and-frisk in the schools, just like we need to end it in the streets. Changing the culture of our schools means making the curriculum culturally relevant, and allowing our students to be critically minded and outspoken, allowing them to speak their languages and have those languages respected, valued and nurtured.
I agree with Howie Hawkins that New York needs to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards and from President Obama's Race to the Top Initiative. The Common Core Standards were funded by Bill Gates, and formulated in closed-door meetings without the input of educators. By setting our students up to fail, they perpetuate the "failure" narrative that profiteers require to sell their wares. In this way, the Common Core standards represent an attempt to facilitate the free market restructuring of public education. The public nature of education is important to defend because quality education should be a human right, not a luxury for those who can afford it.
New York state has squandered tens of millions of dollars contracting the production of more standardized tests for more grades and subjects so that every classroom can be measured. We're busy paying for music tests, but we haven't even made sure that every student has a music teacher. At the state level, we must STOP the drive to quantify every outcome in education and the preposterous attempt to measure the precise contribution every educator makes to a student's test scores.
We need tools for teaching, learning and assessment that are organic to the process of teaching and learning, and tools of accountability that allow the people closest to the process to evaluate needs and to suggest ways to improve. Instead of a tool of assessment, standardized tests have increasingly become about punishment and union-busting. The millions we squander on tests, on data systems and on data analysts could work miracles if we spent them on our students and our classrooms.
And speaking of millions, I live in one of the richest cities in the world--probably one of the richest cities in all of world history for that matter. But this extreme wealth is piled up alongside excruciating poverty. I want to be a part of a campaign that emphatically stands on the side of working people and the poor. If we're not talking about redistributing wealth and resources to those who need them most, then we're not saying anything.
For my entire adult life, I have been a socialist. I dream of fundamentally restructuring our society, and I don't plan on giving up that dream or apologizing for it. The ideals of socialism are what guide my actions. To me, that means economic democracy and economic freedom as the foundation of real political democracy and political freedom.
I don't want to live in a society where children aren't sure whether or not they will be able to eat each day, or don't know where they're going to sleep. I don't want to live in a society where people have to go into crushing debt just to get an education or to see a doctor. I believe that we can solve these problems, but doing so will require profound changes. I believe we will never get those changes without power.
Our power doesn't come from wealth, but from organizing. In the year 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader, not because I thought he would be president, but because his campaign gave tremendous encouragement, strength, and support to grassroots movements for change. Nader helped us to build our power. I have been registered to vote with the Green Party ever since.
Today, I hope to be the Green Party nominee for Lieutenant Governor of New York, because I know that millions of working people in this state are fed up with the Democratic Party in general and with Cuomo in particular. Together, I hope that we can create a campaign that supports and strengthens organizing and organizations, a grassroots campaign funded by ordinary people up against Cuomo and the millionaires. That kind of campaign will give voters a REAL choice in November, and I would be honored to be a part of it.
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I am excited that Brian Jones has stepped up to run as the Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
Brian would not just balance the Green Party ticket. He will multiply it.
To be sure, balance is good. He's downstate; I'm upstate. He's a Teacher; I'm a Teamster. He's Black; I'm white. He's younger; I'm older.
Multiplication is even better. Brian brings a record of effective and significant organizing, speaking, and acting on the issue that I am hearing the most about from voters as I campaign around the state: public education.
Governor Cuomo's education policies are openly advancing the privatization of public education sought by the hedge funders and corporate contractors who seek to profit from education spending. Cuomo is doing what the hedge funders who invest in charter schools are paying him to do with their over $1 million in campaign contributions to Governor 1 Percent.
But the people who want to fight back and vote for an alternative are growing every day. Students are being denied a sound basic education by the corporate privatization agenda. Parents are angry at the high-stakes testing linked to Common Core-poratization, which is really about privatization and profits, not quality education. Teachers are up in arms at the attacks on their wages, benefits, working conditions, unions, and very standing as professional educators.
Taxpayers all across the state want an alternative to the Cuomo's rich man's budgets that lavish tax breaks on the rich while so many school districts face fiscal distress. Dozens of districts are headed for outright insolvency and takeover by a state-appointed control board even as their property taxes still go up and school funding, staffing, and programs still go down
Brian is a leader in the movement for quality public schools and resistance to the corporate reform agenda. He believes that quality education should be a human right, not a just a luxury for those who can afford it.
Brian helped organize the Movement of Rank and File Educators, the social justice caucus of the United Federation of Teachers. He has had op-eds on education policy printed in the New York Times, the Indypendent and other publications. He has appeared on Democracy Now!, MSNBC, and New York City media speaking to these issues. He co-narrated the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. He contributed to the book, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Brian has also lent his voice to several audiobooks, including The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World and Howard Zinn's one-man play Marx in Soho. Brian is the recipient of a 2012 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.
In short, Brian is not just better on the issues. He is better qualified and more accomplished than anybody the Democrats or Republicans are capable of finding to run for Lieutenant Governor on their tickets.
Please nominate Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor at the Green Party convention on Saturday May 17 in Troy.