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April 17, 2015

Oregon towns won't wait for Google Fiber, start building their own gigabit networks

Google Fiber is fast, but a handful of Portland suburbs want to move faster.
Some of the same Oregon cities Google is eyeing for its speedy Internet service are contemplating building their own networks.
Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Gresham and West Linn are at various stages of assessing how they might commission their own fiber-optic networks, which they hope would upgrade Internet speeds and hold down costs for residents and businesses.
They're following the path of smaller cities across the state that have already built their own networks to boost connection speeds, largely in communities the big companies have overlooked.
Most of Portland's suburbs already have at least two options for broadband service, and might get more if Google Fiber arrives with its gigabit connections - 25 times faster than the minimum broadband threshold.
But at least a few cities wonder if they couldn't do it better - or at least more affordably - than Google Fiber.
"They may be a benign company but they would still be a monopoly," said Lake Oswego city manager Scott Lazenby. "And monopolies charge what they can."
Municipal telecom service is a contentious issue nationally. Big cable TV and Internet companies have pushed legislation in multiple states that would prevent local governments from going into the business themselves.
No such proposals are moving forward in Oregon. The FCC voted in February to invalidate such laws, concluding they are more likely to restrict broadband access than improve it. But telecom companies still oppose local governments competing with private businesses.
"We're supportive of public-private partnerships where tax dollars aren't competing against private investment capital," Comcast said in a written statement. "In general, cities have extensive needs like roads, police, parks and community development, and we think especially in times of fiscal tradeoffs that taxpayer money should be focused on those needs rather than competing with the private sector."
For its part, Google Fiber said the cities' exploration of municipal fiber will have no effect on its ongoing exploration of the Portland market.
"Increasing local choice for super high-speed broadband is a good thing for communities," the company said in a written statement.
In Oregon, municipal telecom has a troubled history dating to Ashland's difficult foray into the market in the late 1990s. The Ashland Fiber Network didn't come close to covering the city's costs and was undercut by Charter Communications' cable TV business. The service still operates but it has split off its TV service.
Sherwood tried a municipal fiber network several years later, but it also generated significant losses.
Now, though, a handful of smaller cities say they're producing better results. Monmouth and Independence have a publicly owned utility, MINET, that offers phone, cable TV and Internet service.
Sandy issued a $7 million, 20-year bond to bury 43 miles of fiber connecting 3,500 homes in the city, 20 miles southeast of downtown Portland. It began offering Internet service last October.
"We realized we're too small for Google to come to us," said SandyNet general manager Joe Knapp.
Budget plans called for signing up a third of the city initially, growing to 50 percent over several years. But Knapp said well over 50 percent of the homes in the city have already come aboard.
SandyNet charges $40 a month for Internet connections of 100 megabits per second, four times faster than the national broadband standard. Comparable service from Comcast in the Portland area is more than $100 a month.
SandyNet also offers gigabit service that matches Google Fiber for $60 a month, $10 less than what Google charges in its first markets. Sandy doesn't offer cable TV service yet, but plans to contract with another company to provide it over the fiber network.
Sandy's network is less than six months old, so it's too soon to know how it will perform over time. But public officials in other Oregon cities say they've noticed its early appeal, and Knapp said that he thinks Sandy's approach could work elsewhere.
"I think it's very doable in larger cities," he said.
Maybe. But larger communities would face a different set of challenges.
Sandy is very small area - "We're practically like a neighborhood in Portland," Knapp said - so it's much less expensive to run fiber to all the homes. And SandyNet has tepid competition from a small cable TV operator called Wave and low-end Internet service from Frontier.
In the Portland area, Comcast, Frontier and CenturyLink have all boosted their Internet speeds in the past year and would surely fight to hold their markets. On Friday, Comcast said it plans to eventually upgrade nearly its entire service territory to gigabit service - and bring 2 gigs to many customers.
Additionally, Google Fiber could decide within the next several weeks whether to serve Portland and five close-in suburbs: Gresham, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Portland contemplated building its own fiber network in 2007 but ruled it out after seeing the price tag: nearly half a billion dollars. Portland now estimates that a Google Fiber network - which might not serve the whole city - would cost $300 million.

150 cops for 300 residents: the Michigan town running 'pay-to-play' policing

Oakley, Michigan, is not a hotbed of crime. But if that should change, it seems well placed to cope, because the village is believed to have a police force numbering almost 150 people, or one officer for every two residents.
One, Robert James Ritchie, does not live in Oakley. A Detroit-area native better known as the rapper Kid Rock, he applied to join the village’s small army of reserve police officers, according to an attorney, along with many prominent Michigan professionals and businesspeople and a football player for the Miami Dolphins.

“A small blip on the map, the little village of Oakley, with less than 300 residents, has got dozens and dozens of no-show secret police officers,” said Philip Ellison, a lawyer who is representing the family who own Oakley’s tavern in lawsuits attempting to force transparency from village leaders about the scheme.
Ellison said the singer was one of the names on a document released to him which he is not allowed to make public in full.
“None of the reservists, with the exception of one, live within an hour and a half of the village of Oakley,” said Ellison. He and others say the police force is in effect running a “pay to play” scheme with parallels to the controversy in Tulsa, Oklahoma that erupted after a wealthy white 73-year-old reserve deputy with close links to the sheriff shot dead a black man during a botched sting operation after apparently mistaking his gun for his Taser.
Bob Bates, an insurance executive who has been charged with manslaughter and is out on bail, gave money to the sheriff’s re-election fund, went fishing with him and donated expensive equipment including cars to the Tulsa County sheriff’s office. On Thursday, Tulsa World reported that at least three of Bates’s supervisors were transferred after refusing to falsify training records to give him credit for training he never took and firearms certifications he was not entitled to receive.
The sheriff, Stanley Glanz, told KFAQ radio that Bates was certified to use three weapons, including the gun that killed Eric Harris, but the paperwork had gone missing and they were unable to contact the firearms instructor who qualified him, who had since joined the secret service. A lawyer for Bates and a spokesman for the sheriff’s office did not return requests for comment.
Speaking to NBC on Friday, Bates denied that supervisors at the sheriff’s office were told to forge his training records and said that he had done the required training.
“That is absolutely the truth. I have it in writing,” he said. 
The case has raised questions about the competence and training levels of armed volunteer police officers and whether some are unqualified and unsuitable but have received their badges through a quid pro quo arrangement.
“Untrained or low-trained individuals who made a donation are given a badge, allowed to exercise some sort of police authority, they’re armed and I think the Oklahoma case is a foreshadow of what could happen in any of these towns that have this type of reserve programme, including the village of Oakley. It just happened in Oklahoma first,” Ellison said.
It often cost applicants more than a thousand dollars to become a reservist at the quiet settlement 30 miles west of Flint. The Saginaw News reported that last May the police department was sitting on more than $165,000 and there were 185 “receipts” ranging from $50 to $4,000 and totalling $245,510 between 2008 and 2014. The News reported that in 2013 the police department bought every home in the village a ham for Christmas.
Oakley’s police chief, Robert Reznick, did not respond to a request for comment.
Ellison said that in the first quarter of this year the police department received only four calls for help. He said the motivation for paying to become an Oakley reservist was likely to be enhanced rights to carry a firearm in the state.
“By being a reserve officer they are exempted from those prohibited areas – schools, churches, casinos, stadiums, taverns and restaurants where alcohol is served. Essentially there are no prohibited areas whatsoever with this permit,” he said.
Ross Wolf, an associate dean at the University of Central Florida, is a reserve officer in the Orange County sheriff’s office and has authored studies on the subject.
“I’ve come across this before where there’s been people who pay to be reserves,” he said. “It’s not very common. However, there are also people who are well-off who are reserves and they have money and it’s just like if someone worked at the food pantry as their volunteer job and they said ‘You know what, I want to give extra money to the food pantry because that’s where my interests lie.’
“It does look bad and that’s the problem. I always, always discourage it because of that.”
Duties and requirements vary widely from state to state and department to department. In an era of tight budgets, many forces, even in major cities, bolster their ranks with free or cheap part-time labour and accept gifts from the public. In 2013, for example, the former Houston Texans NFL player Mario Williamsdonated five Dodge Chargers to the Houston police department, the fifth largest in the country.
New York has 4,500 unarmed “auxiliary” officers. In Florida, Wolf said he was licensed to carry a weapon, had been in dangerous situations and underwent 40 hours of training a year. In Oklahoma, reserves are supposed to receive 240 hours of training.
“When my neighbours are sleeping I’m out there patrolling their neighbourhoods and making sure that they’re safe. I see it as a community service,” Wolf said.
Wolf said there was no reliable figure for the number of law enforcement volunteers nationwide but it is likely to be tens of thousands and the practice has been common for half a century. In 2013 he conducted a survey of sheriff’s reservists which found that 90% of respondents had “law enforcement authority to be armed, 69% while on- or off-duty”.
Bates is not the first to fire a gun accidentally in recent times. In Iowa last July a reserve deputy shot a vehicle’s door after a car chase. No one was hurt. In 2012 an Alabama reserve died after being shot during target practice.
Volunteers have also fallen foul of the law. In 2012 an Atlanta man tipped off suspected drug dealers about an FBI investigation.

"In late March, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government could take more than $60,000 of [Mark] Brewer’s cash with civil forfeiture, even though he was never charged with a crime...According to Brewer, he had been saving that cash during his military service."

Mark Brewer is a decorated Air Force veteran who fought in the global war on terror. But last month, he became a casualty in the drug war.

In late March, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government could take more than $60,000 of Brewer’s cash with civil forfeiture, even though he was never charged with a crime. The decision lets many Midwestern states continue to take property from people who have done nothing wrong. 

A former military police officer and weapons specialist, Brewer earned several medals during his service in the Air Force, before he was medically discharged in 2008. Brewer said he developed Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after a deployment in Afghanistan.
In November 2011, Brewer was driving on Interstate 80 in Nebraska, when Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Wintle pulled Brewer over for crossing traffic lanes without signaling. During the stop, Wintle performed a criminal background check, which “revealed no major violations.”

After gaining Brewer’s consent, Wintle walked around the car with a canine unit; the dog alerted to the trunk. When he searched the trunk, Wintle found two backpacks that had a “strong odor of raw marijuana” and $63,530 in cash.

Source:http://www.forbes.com/ 

State seizes 11-year-old, arrests his mother after he defends medical marijuana during a school presentation

From the website run by investigative journalist Ben Swann:
On March 24, cannabis oil activist Shona Banda‘s life was flipped upside-down after her son was taken from her by the State of Kansas. The ordeal started when police and counselors at her 11-year-old son’s school conducted a drug education class. Her son, who had previously lived in Colorado for a period of time, disagreed with some of the anti-pot points that were being made by school officials. “My son says different things like my ‘Mom calls it cannabis and not marijuana.’ He let them know how educated he was on the facts,” said Banda in an exclusive interview with BenSwann.com. Banda successfully treated her own Crohn’s disease with cannabis oil.
After her son spoke out about medical marijuana, police detained him and launched a raid on Shona Banda’s home. “Well, they had that drug education class at school that was just conducted by the counselors… They pulled my son out of school at about 1:40 in the afternoon and interrogated him. Police showed up at my house at 3… I let them know that they weren’t allowed in my home without a warrant… I didn’t believe you could get a warrant off of something a child says in school.” Banda continued, “We waited from 3 o’clock until 6 o’clock. They got a warrant at 6 o’clock at night and executed a warrant into my home. My husband and I are separated, and neither parent was contacted by authorities before [our son] was taken and questioned.”
The police apparently found 2 ounces of cannabis oil in her home. She fears that the state will now attempt to take her son away. She has a custody hearing on Monday.
I contacted the Garden City Police Department to verify some of the details that have been reported online. A spokesman confirmed that officers had searched Banda’s home, though he denied it was a raid. He also said the initial anti-drug program was put on entirely by the school — the police had no involvement. At that event Banda’s son apparently contradicted some of the claims made about marijuana. The school then contacted the child protection agency, which then contacted the police. Officers from the department showed up at Banda’s at home and asked her permission to conduct a search. She refused. They then obtained a warrant and searched her home. The spokesman wouldn’t comment on exactly what was found, except to say that there was “evidence” of drug activity. Banda was then arrested and her son was seized from the home. Currently, there are no criminal charges against her. The spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether charges may be forthcoming. He added that possession of marijuana is illegal in Kansas, without exception.
The absurdity here of course is that a woman could lose her custody of her child for therapeutically using a drug that’s legal for recreational use an hour to the west. It seems safe to say that the amount of the drug she had in her home was an amount consistent with personal use. (If she had been distributing, she’d almost certainly have been charged by now.)

France wants to fight terrorism by spying on everyone - Prime minister says proposed surveillance law 'is not a French Patriot Act,' but civil liberties groups say it goes too far

French lawmakers have spent the past four days debating a controversial anti-terrorism bill that, if passed, would dramatically expand the government's surveillance powers. The law's backers describe it as a necessary measure to thwart terrorist attacks, and it has strong support on both sides of the aisle. But the bill has drawn sharp criticism from French internet companies over fears that it could harm business, and from privacy advocates who say it would severely curtail civil liberties.
The proposed law, introduced in Parliament on Monday, would allow the government to monitor emails and phone calls of suspected terrorists and their contacts, without seeking authorization from a judge. Telecommunications and internet companies would be forced to automatically filter vast amounts of metadata to flag suspicious patterns, and would have to make that data freely available to intelligence services. Agents would also be able to plant cameras and bugs in the homes of suspected terrorists, as well as keyloggers to track their online behavior. 
This week's debate comes more than three months after gunmen killed 17 people in a string of attacks that began at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Following the attacks, Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for stronger surveillance of social media websites and digital communications, raising fears that the government would respond with its own version of the Patriot Act — the sweeping anti-terror legislation that the US passed following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Valls sought to quell those concerns when he announced the bill last month, tellingreporters that surveillance operations would only be carried out on suspected terrorists, and that controls would be put in place to prevent abuse.
"This is by no means an implementation of exceptional measures, nor the widespread surveillance of citizens," he said. "The bill makes clear that this enhanced monitoring will only concern terrorist communications, it demonstrates that there will be no mass surveillance... this is not a French Patriot Act." In a speech to Parliament on Monday, headded that the bill "has nothing to do with the practices revealed by Edward Snowden," referring to the widespread surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency.
But critics say the law gives disproportionate power to the office of the prime minister, and that the proposed controls don't go far enough. The bill calls for the creation of a nine-person commission to conduct oversight of surveillance operations, but it is only authorized to advise the prime minister's office, not override it. Civil rights groups also say the bill's language is dangerously broad in defining legitimate targets, potentially implicating civilians as well as suspected terrorists.
"Suddenly, you're in a system where the government has full power, full control over intelligence services," says Eva Blum-Dumontet, an advocacy officer at the London-based watchdog Privacy International. "If we learn anything from history it's that giving full power to governments on surveilling citizens is really not a good idea." 
Privacy International, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations expressed alarm over the bill when it was announced last month, urging Parliament to give it careful scrutiny. It's also been criticized by the National Digital Council, which advises France's government on technological issues, and by several French web hosting companies, which say the threat of constant government intrusion would undermine their business.
Of particular concern is the provision requiring telecoms to automatically filter internet traffic. Under the law, internet service providers would have to install monitoring mechanisms — referred to by the French media as "black boxes" — that would use algorithms to detect, in real time, suspicious behaviors in internet metadata. The bill's supporters stress that this metadata would remain anonymous and that content of communications would not be automatically swept up, but the behaviors that would constitute a "terrorist-like" pattern are still unclear. Critics say the measure effectively amounts to mass surveillance of web traffic on a disproportionately large scale. Under the bill, recordings could be stored for up to one month, and metadata for up to five years.
France's current data protection laws date back to 1978, and are among the strongest in Europe. "It's a comprehensive data protection framework that applies to both the public sector and all industries," Fabrice Naftalski, a data privacy attorney and partner at the legal firm EY in Paris, says of current French law. "Protection of personal data is a fundamental right." 
But the country's counter-terrorism laws haven't been revised since 1991, which was the original impetus behind drafting this bill last summer. The legislation took on a new sense of urgency following January's attacks, when Valls moved to fast-track it for passage by this summer. (A vote is expected early next month.)
An alarmingly high number of French nationals have traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq, according to interior ministry figures, and the government has sought to combat jihadist propaganda on social media. Three weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the government released a highly stylized website to deter young people from joining radical movements. Last month, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve traveled to the US to urgecompanies like Facebook and Google to play a more active role in turning over user information to French authorities.

The bank moved to seize a widow’s home. But it didn’t tell her the loan was insured.

For more than a decade after her husband died, Laura Coleman Biggs paid her mortgage to a Bank of America subsidiary. She was never told, even as she was weeks from losing her home, that her husband had actually protected her against foreclosure.
George “Kenny” Mitchell had taken out a special lender-pushed insurance policy to pay off most of his loan if he died.
But when he passed away on April 26, 2003, the subsidiary of Charlotte-based Bank of America did not arrange a payoff of the $100,000 policy and continued to charge his widow an insurance premium every month along with her mortgage payment.
Now Bank of America, Select Portfolio Servicing – a company that collects mortgage payments – and a Florida insurer all face a federal lawsuit in California seeking compensatory and punitive damages, alleging negligence and fraud for their treatment of Biggs.
Her lawyers hope it will pull others out of the shadows nationwide who’ve faced similar problems with the nation’s big banks, already forced to pay regulators billions over the housing bust. The plight of the former nurse speaks to how much dysfunction remains in the housing finance system, which nearly toppled the U.S. economy seven years ago.
Biggs was the subject of a story by McClatchy in December 2013 that documented how she was about to lose her home days before Christmas. Bank of America’s bill collector was telling her the home was not her husband’s primary residence. It couldn’t be: He was dead. Mitchell did reside on the premises – in an urn.
The McClatchy report helped stall the foreclosure. In the months that followed, Bank of America’s subsidiary offered Biggs a mortgage modification that added more than $30,000 in miscellaneous fees and legal fees and charges to the loan. That would have sucked out the equity she’d built up in the home. Her pro bono lawyer demanded a list of specifics on the fees.
One stood out to George Bosch, a legal administrator who worked on her case for the Los Angeles law firm of Edward Lopez. It was passed off as a fee but didn’t seem normal. Was it an insurance premium, he asked?
“Silence on the other end of the phone. They didn’t want to answer the question,” said Bosch.
A few days later, the answer came. Yes, it was an insurance premium, for a policy underwritten by Miami-based American Bankers Life Assurance Co. of Florida.
Her late husband had taken out a $100,000 policy with the original mortgage with NationsCredit Financial Services Corp., the subsidiary of Bank of America that specialized in lending to poor borrowers. He owed about $120,000 on the home when he died. That should have left his widow – now sole owner of the house – with little problem in paying off, over time, the remainder of the loan.
Instead, when she fell on hard times in 2011, Select Portfolio Servicing began a two-year move on behalf of the lender to take her home – even as they continued to collect the premiums on the insurance policy.
“I didn’t know that the insurance policy existed ... but I had told them about my husband passing,” Biggs told McClatchy in an interview. “They had several opportunities to tell me that there was a life insurance policy, and they just didn’t.”
The law appears murky on notification requirements, but lawyers for Biggs argue that she should have been afforded the basic contractual obligations of good faith and fair dealing.

New rules proposed

A spokesman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said there were no hard numbers for how many complaints the bureau had received from surviving family members like Biggs about such insurance issues. But the treatment of mortgages and surviving family members is a big enough concern that the bureau established new protections that took effect in January 2014. Last November, the bureau proposed additional rules to make it harder for lenders and their bill collectors to foreclose on properties that have passed to surviving spouses or children.
“It shows the importance of the CFPB adopting rules that protect successors in interests, who are often widows with a mortgage, because there are a lot of problems in the transition” after a spouse dies, said Michael Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, a housing advocacy group in Durham. “This is an example of one of them.”
In their Feb. 12 filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, attorneys for Biggs seek an unspecified amount of damages, alleging that Bank of America, its mortgage servicer and the insurer acted together and maliciously to ignore the insurance policy designed to keep her in the home. The lawyers don’t think her case is isolated.
McClatchy sought comment from Select Portfolio Servicing, but it has no public corporate number listed in Salt Lake City, nor does it provide one on its website. A loan specialist on its toll-free number took down McClatchy’s request to pass to corporate headquarters, but, as was the case with the 2013 story, there was no return call. Calls were made to the Miami-based insurer, with the same result.
Bank of America spokesman Richard G. Simon declined to discuss specifics, citing the lawsuit brought on Biggs’ behalf.
“This is an extremely unusual case that has been confounded by multiple situations, among them Ms. Biggs’ name not being on the loan; assertion of aliases used by Ms. Biggs’ deceased husband, George Mitchell, also known as Kenneth Walter Biggs; and by Ms. Biggs’ own lack of knowledge of an insurance policy associated with the mortgage,” the bank said in a statement, adding that “Bank of America did not service this loan for most of the time period pertinent to the allegations in the complaint.”
The statement noted that Bank of America’s partners had made good on what Biggs was owed.
Actually, she was sent a check for $24,512.65 last May 6 – far from the full amount owed – and another for $2,707.49, a 1 percent rate of interest on the amount. After protests from Bosch, the insurer sent another check on May 20, for the remaining $75,487.35, plus one for $8,360.92 in interest.
“I think there are hundreds, or thousands, of Mrs. Biggses out there,” said Peter J. McNulty, whose McNulty Law Firm sued on her behalf. “She’s the 1 percent who had the good fortune to find someone who gave her good legal advice.”




Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/banking/article18700647.html#storylink=cpy

April 16, 2015

Up to 300,000 students have boycotted New York State standardized testing this week as parents and teachers band together in the growing anti-testing movement. Some districts are reporting up to 70% of students refusing to take the test.

It's an anti-testing tsunami.
Thousands of families across the Empire State said no to standardized testing, boycotting the state-mandated English Language Arts exams which began Tuesday.
While accurate figures were hard to come by, testing opponents, parents groups, and school officials from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, to Buffalo all agreed the number is likely to far exceed the 60,000 students who refused to take the test last year.
“From what I’m hearing from other superintendents, it could be at least 300,000 students across the state that opted out,” said William Cala, superintendent of Fairport Central School District near Rochester.
Rachel Cohen, mother of a fifth-grader at Public School 261, said she thinks at least 66% of the 817 students in her Boerum Hill school refused to take the English Language Arts test — the first of the exams administered to third-through eighth-graders across New York State this week.

“Essentially I see no diagnostic educational benefit to my child,” she said. “I see no compelling evidence this is a fair and accurate way to assess children or teachers. All this emphasis on testing actually interferes with meaningful learning and assessment.”
Other parents whose kids opted-out echoed Cohen’s complaints that teachers are being forced to “teach to the test” to preserve their jobs — and their kids were being short-changed as a result.
“We’re not against assessment, we believe in meaningful assessment,” said Jody Alperin, whose children are in the second and fifth grade at PS 10 in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. “Test results should not be punitive.”

Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Education, said it will be several days before they know just how many public school students balked at taking the tests.
“We collect opt-out data (as we do every year) by tabulating what is bubbled on the students’ answer sheets during the test administration,” Kaye said. “For this reason, we do not have figures until after the test administration is completed, including makeup test dates.”
About 1.1 million students statewide were eligible to take the exams. The ELA exams run through Thursday and the math tests are next week.
Chris Cerrone, of United Opt Out, which has been leading the charge against the testing, agreed it will take some time before they get a true picture of how widespread the boycott was.

“The numbers are still coming in,” he said.
But reports of large numbers of students boycotting the tests were pouring in from public schools across the state.
Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate, refused to allow two of his kids to take the test. He estimated some 100,000 parents did the same statewide.

Further north in the Lower Hudson valley, school officials reported that a quarter of all students in third through eighth grade ditched the test.
Up in the Buffalo suburbs, the superintendent of West Seneca School District reported 2,074 out of 2,976 students — nearly 70% — refused to take the test.
“Last year, we had 30% who refused to take the test,” said Mark Crawford, whose district has five elementary schools and two middle schools. “So it was a surprise to me.”
In the nearby Lake Shore School District, Superintendent James Przepasniak said half of their 1,000-plus students opted out.

“I am not surprised,” he told The Buffalo News. “I believe that the parents groups, the teachers groups have been communicating to parents through many means and I think our parents are more aware of the options they have.”
Gov. Cuomo, a strong supporter of the standardized exams, declined to comment on the apparent anti-testing movement sweeping the state.
But parents like Michele Greeley, 44, of Staten Island, said the anti-testing sentiment is not widespread at her kids’ school — and the state needs some way to measure teacher and student performance.
“I had to take tests when I was in school,” said Greeley, who has kids in the fourth and fifth grades at PS 8 in Staten Island. 

“I want to make sure they are learning. It didn’t even cross my mind to opt out. Every parent is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t really know anyone who opted out here.”
Critics, however, say the tests are a poor measure of academic achievement and rob students of valuable school time.

This year New York State United Teachers got behind the opt-out movement after the state Legislature passed a law backed strongly by Cuomo that made test scores the basis of tougher evaluation standards intended to kick poor performing teachers out of classrooms.
Widespread boycotts, pro-teacher groups believe, would undermine the credibility of teacher ratings.
There are no penalties for refusing the tests, but in the past relatively few parents chose to have their kids skip the exams.