Important update on Regents exams, state budget, the cancellation of Zoom, and more!

Dear Friends,

1.First, some good news to report! The Board of Regents announced yesterday that the Regents exams due to take place this spring are cancelled. Today they put out guidance that any student who would have needed to pass any Regents exams to graduate in June can be issued a diploma without taking them. More details in this FAQThanks to those of you who sent one of the 400 plus letters to the Regents and Commissioner about this; a Regents member mentioned receiving your letters at their meeting yesterday.

2.There also bad news.  The state budget passed last week froze school spending at this year’s level, without raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy; given rising costs and salaries this will be experienced by many districts, including NYC, as cuts. The Governor was also given the authority to slash education spending further over the course of the year, depending on state revenue– though the Legislature will be able block his proposed cuts if they vote to do so within ten days.

If you’d like to see how your legislators voted on the budget, you can check out the Senate votes here and the Assembly here, where it was especially close. More on what this budget means for education compared to the outcomes that many advocates and parents had hoped for is outlined in this helpful chart from AQE .

We will all have to work hard to see that the city doesn’t follow the state’s lead by drastically cutting back on its own support for education. School services and especially class sizes have STILL not yet recovered from the economic recession in 2008, more than a decade ago. It would be devastating to NYC kids for class sizes to grow even larger.

3. Late on Friday, the Chancellor announced that NYC schools should stop using the video conferencing tool Zoom as it doesn’t comply with state student privacy law, passed in 2014, and because it puts children’s safety and their personal data at risk in numerous ways.

Other districts, including Washington DC and Las Vegas, have also told teachers not to use Zoom because of similar concerns, and last July, EPIC filed a 22 page complaint to the FTC about Zoom’s practices, including how the company had “exposed users to the risk of remote surveillance, unwanted videocalls, and denial-of-service attack.”

I understand the frustration of teachers and parents who were getting used to Zoom and wanted to continue using it, but this is no excuse for continuing to violate the law and putting kids’ personal data and safety at risk. As I said to Education Week , the Chancellor should “negotiate a contract with Zoom that complies with state law and protects student privacy, and train teachers on how to use this app and other apps in a more responsible manner.”

The state regulations require all districts to provide training in privacy to teachers; I have yet to hear from a single NYC teacher who has received any. There also needs to be vigorous oversight by both the DOE and the state to ensure that Zoom and other companies are abiding by their contracts and the law – such enforcement is too often lacking.

As this document posted by the regional BOCES offices reveals, administrators at Erie 2 BOCES are now “in contract negotiations” with Zoom to finalize a contract that would comply with NY state law — and that any NY district, including NYC, could opt into. Let’s hope this happens soon.

I will be providing more resources about student privacy in the coming days — an issue which is too often ignored by many districts, including NYC, as is now made even more clear in their rush to adopt commercially-designed programs. I will also be reaching out to you to ask which online programs and apps your children’s schools are using, and what your thoughts are about the risks and rewards involved.

Hope you’re all bearing up and staying safe during these unprecedented times,


Categories Newsletters, Updates | Tags: | Posted on April 7, 2020

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