Common Core and the Fight for the NYS Senate: How the Failure to Comprehend the Emotional Power of Parents/Teachers/Voters Derailed the Common Core

Fifteen weeks before the November election and Governor Cuomo has a 37 point lead over his Republican opponent Rob Astorino as well as a huge advantage in dollars. Cuomo’s support of charter schools cut off a major source of funding for Astorino and the national Republican funding operation views him as a loser and has not committed dollars to his campaign. Whether we like it or not dollars decide elections, if you can’t reach the voters with your ideas, and besmirch your opponent, you’re left on the sidelines.

Cuomo’s campaign is taking nothing for granted, they are well aware in the race for Westchester County Executive, Astorino was polling behind the Democrat and won by 10% – Cuomo will be charging as hard as he can up until election day.

While the gubernatorial election will grab the headlines the key races in New York State are for control of the 63-seat Senate. The Senate is currently controlled by … well … an interesting question. Five “breakaway” Democrats, the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), led by Jeff Klein, and Dean Skelos, the Republican leader, control the flow of legislation. On paper the Democrats hold a one seat majority; however, the last two Democratic leaders have been indicted and are awaiting trial and two Democrats lean well to the Republican side of the aisle.

In order to avoid primaries the IDC has agreed to caucus with the Democrats to establish a majority if the dems prevail in November, maybe.

Of course, the Senate, in many ways resembles the Roman Senate with “colleagues” lurking” in the shadows waiting to assassinate enemies or friends, as long they benefit.

Will Cuomo’s ample coattails drag the Democratic slate to victory?

Are there actually issues that will drive voters?

The Democrats are hoping that Andrew’s landslide will carry the day, and, worry about the major issue in the minds of voters. No, not guns, or taxes, or gambling, or marijuana, the major issue is the Common Core.

By a 49-39 percent margin, voters want to see implementation of the Common Core standards stopped rather than continued.

Voters are closely divided on viewing each house of the Legislature favorably or unfavorably, and more are inclined to re-elect incumbent legislators rather than ‘someone else.’ Yet, 65 percent say most state legislators “do what’s best for them and their political friends and it never surprises me when another one gets indicted.” Only 28 percent say “most state legislators are honest, hardworking and do what’s best for their constituents.” – (See results from the latest Siena Poll

In a week or two the Common Core grades 3-8 test scores will be released and the firestorm of last year may be re-ignited.

The 2013 scores were released on August 7th, with fanfare – the lengthy press release was almost smug, New York State was one of the first states in the nation to begin the new Common Core path to higher accountability and higher learnings. No matter how hard the Department of Education spun the numbers two-thirds of all students scored “below proficient;” meaning, they failed the test. In the fall, in order to stem the simmering outrage the Commissioner began a “listening tour,” in reality trying to convince audiences of parents ”to love the core.” The meetings were angry, hostile and the meetings were suspended for a while. Public anger moved from simmering to bubbling and eventually the Governor/State legislature passed laws to slow down the implementation of the Common Core.

Too late. Perhaps as many as 30,000 parents “opted out” of the exam and the evidence of the continuing anger is seen in the polling data.

The 2014 scores may be somewhat better; however, a majority of students will receive “below proficient” scores and the cauldron may boil over.

Astorino is seeking another line on the ballot, a “Stop the Common Core” line; the Cuomo camp champions the legislation that slowed the implementation.

Voters see these issues in simpler terms: Are you for or against?

A seasoned smart legislator asked me to give him a one-page summary of the Common Core issue with pro and con arguments, not an easy chore. At every meeting constituents raised the issue, he received letters and emails, but there was no bill to vote for or against. He was facing a visceral anger: you’re punishing my kid, do something, but what?

Do incumbents tell voters the Regents and the Commissioner moved too quickly, give them time, eventually the Common Core will benefit your kids? Or, blast the Regents and the Commissioner and promise to drastically change policies and roll back an ill-advised path?

For insurgents the path is easier, blame the incumbents and promise to throw out the Core.

The Common Core may, or may not change the course of education, on some grades the Core standards may not be appropriate, the failure to view the Core as an evolving document is foolish, politics reduces itself to the simple and the Common Core has been reduced to a “yes” or “no” proposition for many voters.

Bill de Blasio was elected mayor primarily because of a single TV commercial, the “Dante” Afro video and the laser-like focus on two issues: “Stop and Frisk” and Pre-Kindergarten for all.

As the Race to the Top dollars evaporate, as the Congress fails to re-authorize No Child Left Behind and starves education dollars, as the antipathy to the Common Core resonates across the nation, PhD dissertations will recount how policy-makers erred and how the failure to understand politics derailed the most heralded education “idea” in a decade.

3 responses to “Common Core and the Fight for the NYS Senate: How the Failure to Comprehend the Emotional Power of Parents/Teachers/Voters Derailed the Common Core

  1. Marc S. Korashan

    The real issue is not the Common Core it is the botched roll out and the attachment of the Core to high stakes tests that were untested themselves. A close reading of the standards reveals concepts that most of us would agree describe our aspirations for our students. There are problems at the lower levels with standards that are not framed in developmentally appropriate terms, but the intent was to create a set of standards so that teachers would have clear goals.

    Parents (and teachers) are angry about the Common Core because the implementation and the standards have become inextricably linked by attaching high stakes tests to measure students and teachers to the Common Core. This was a political decision with no educational necessity nor any real validity.

    Politicians, like Governor Cuomo, have argued for testing students to evaluate them and their teachers. These politicians now have to live with the fallout from their bad decisions. Maybe if they were willing to back away from their rhetoric attacking teachers and involve teachers in implementing the Common Core they would find relief from the anger.


  2. Pingback: A July 21, 2014, Update on Common Core, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced | deutsch29

  3. Pingback: A July 21, 2014, Update on Common Core, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced – @ THE CHALK FACE

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