By Michele Justic
Let’s try an exercise: Raise your hand if you like Common Core. No one? No principals, teachers, parents, or students? Let’s try another one: Raise your hand if you love taxes so much you want to pay them twice…
Most classrooms don’t see this much silence.
We can all agree we live in a democratic society, so why is our government creating policies and practices so out of line with popular opinion? Perhaps it comes down to a geography lesson: Washington D.C. is approximately 226 miles away from New York, and closer, yet still pretty far, Albany is 161 miles from the Five Towns. Or perhaps a lesson in Political Science: Incumbents have approximately a 90% reelection rate. Combine these two facts and you often have well meaning, intelligent politicians who simply lose touch with their constituents.
Voters in Nassau County’s Fourth District have a wonderful opportunity to effect some change. Both longtime Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D) and longtime Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D) are retiring after distinguished careers in public service. And we have some “homegrown” talent looking to represent us in their place: Congressional Candidate Bruce Blakeman (R) and Assembly Candidate Avi Fertig (R). While the seat Blakeman seeks concerns national interests, many may be unaware of the power of local government, specifically our assembly in Albany, to effect real change in our everyday lives.
Avi Fertig has a unique vantage point from which to determine his policy points. He is both a longstanding professional at the Town of Hempstead and the Nassau Legislature and a young father of four who deals with the same financial and bureaucratic hassles we all do. Especially as the husband of a well-respected preschool director, Fertig’s position on our schools is well formulated and will clearly benefit the community.
Proof of the stark contrast between Fertig’s approach and that of his opponent was publicly displayed at the League of Women Voters’ debate on Monday, October 27. Fertig proudly expressed his support for Education Investment Tax Credits. By encouraging communal support for schools through tax incentives, EITC would benefit all schools—public, parochial, and private. Yet his opponent firmly denied any current or future support for such an idea, expressing his sentiment that it would detract from public school funding. Those who send their children to yeshiva have always felt the pinch of paying taxes for schools they do not use, while also paying taxes on money they spend on tuition for alternate schools. The tax incentives would certainly ease the personal financial burden of those who opt for private school. But the act is also structured in such a way as to allow for greater funds for education as a whole, hopefully leading to a greater educational experience for all students of all schools.
What is being taught in the schools is a different matter. “Common Core” has become almost an insulting term, used for overly complicated, sometimes also biased methods with questionable educational value. Fertig explains the problematic curricula: “The Common Core was conceived with the best of intentions—to create a means to educate our children for 21st-century jobs to ensure America has a leading place in the world economy. However, the version of Common Core that was implemented was horribly wrong. It created misery for students, whose academic universes were upturned over a summer vacation, for parents forced to watch their children suffer nightly as they stand by powerless and unable to finish homework, and for teachers who are passionate about their careers who must now defer to a mostly irrelevant bureaucracy located hundreds if not thousands of miles away from their classroom.” Instead, Fertig supports the APPLE Program (Achieving Pupil Preparedness and Launching Excellence), which zooms in on the problems of Common Core and allows for modifications. The current structure is inflexible, but the APPLE program allows educators to collaborate and work with local government to create curricula most suited for their students, even while utilizing the general Common Core materials.
In addition, Fertig hopes to follow in the footsteps of beloved retiring Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg in his staunch support of children with special needs. Fertig has worked in facilities that service children with special needs and has a special affinity for assisting them. He feels it’s shameful not to give full attention to their needs and he hopes to advocate for them in any way possible.
Avi Fertig is already well known as someone who assists those who need help navigating the pathways of bureaucracy, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Yet, his policy agenda is directed at a better future for the hardworking families of the 20th Assembly District. This Election Day, November 4, choose for your children.
By Michele Justic