N.Y. teachers federation votes no-confidence against schools chief John B. King Jr.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. is shown during a press conference following a presentation of the Regents Common Core Work Group report to the Board of Regents in Albany on Feb. 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Philip Kamrass

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A statewide federation of teachers unions passed a vote of no-confidence Saturday against New York Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., a resolution that called for his "immediate" removal.

The voice vote by the nearly 3,000-delegate body of the New York State United Teachers was approved with overwhelming shouts of "aye" -- and not a single audible "nay." The state Board of Regents appoints the commissioner, so the vote was merely symbolic.

The resolution cited the "failed" rollout of Common Core academic standards, and related student tests and teacher evaluations. The federation, representing 1,200 unions and 600,000 members across the state, has also withdrawn its support for the standards as implemented in New York.

"This a long, long overdue call for the commissioner's resignation," Greg McCrea of Syracuse, a music teacher and local union chief, told the crowd at the New York Hilton, where the federation is holding its 42nd Representative Assembly this weekend.

A call to King's cellphone was returned by his spokesman Dennis Tompkins, who said King will not resign.

"This is just union politics as usual," Tompkins said. "The commissioner remains focused on improving our schools to ensure every student can build the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in college and a career."

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Teachers interviewed before and after the vote expressed frustration with how the standards were implemented.

Frank DeCelie, a computer teacher at the Herricks district's Center Street School in Williston Park, called the Common Core implementation "insulting" and supported the federation's vote.

"High-stakes testing is abominable. We're testing little kids who are totally not prepared for this level of testing -- physically, emotionally, and certainly not pedagogically," he said.

Common Core, adopted by all but a handful of states and heralded by the Obama administration, is meant to replace the potpourri of state-by-state standards with nationwide guidelines of what students should know in math and English at the end of each grade. Exams based on the standards are meant to generate data to help the state see how well students and their educators are doing.

The delegates, in a separate voice vote, also Saturday supported the rights of parents and guardians to opt their children out of high-stakes tests.Last week nearly 9,500 elementary and middle school students across more than half of Long Island's 124 public school districts refused to sit for the state's English Language Arts exam, according to figures from school officials.

Also this weekend, the federation's president, Richard C. Iannuzzi, and his executive board allies were to face serious challenges in delegate elections. Iannuzzi, a former Central Islip teacher, has presided since 2005.

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