Townsend's Greatest Hits in the Great Debate with Chuck Schumer
October 24, 2010, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Moderator: This question is about education and teachers, a very popular topic now because of a movie. Should public school teachers be graded based on how students perform in state exams and their names and their grades be public?
Townsend: The taxpayers pay the salaries of the teachers. I think the taxpayers are entitled to know how the teachers are doing. I'm a product of public schools and I wouldn't be here now had it not been for great public school teachers. My children are in public schools. I want to make our public schools better but I don't know how you make them better when there is no accountability. When the head of the New York State Teachers Union tells the public that it's none of the public's business how the teachers are performing.
Moderator: So you think those names and grades should be made public?
Townsend: Absolutely, yes.
Moderator: Mr. Schumer?
Schumer: Yeah, I think it's a difficult question in this sense. I believe in openness. I believe in making things public. And when you're a public official whether you're a senator or a teacher, it's more important for you to be open as well. But I don't think we should rush into a system. We don't know what has been written into those records. We don't know how the evaluations have been complied with. You wouldn't want your name in a leading newspaper if someone who really didn't like you wrote something particular nasty about you. So I think we ought to look at this. We ought to make sure that it's fair. And then we should be able to make names public but only after there's some deliberative discussion not in a rush to judgement.
Moderator: So you wouldn't publish those names based on
performance on state tests?
Schumer: I believe performance should matter and I believe it should be made public but I believe it should be done in a fair and thoughtful way so that good teachers and most teachers are good teachers. My kids went to the New York City public schools. Most everyone of their teachers was terrific susceptible to haven seen their name in the papers to a charge that they couldn't even answer.
Townsend: For the record I will side with the parents and the students and the taxpayers who have a right to know how the teachers are performing. For the record Chuck Schumer just sided with the New York State Public Teachers Union.