Tag Archives: Governor Cuomo

The Enigmatic Governor of New York State: Presidential Pretender or a Model Governor for the Nation?

In San Francisco, in the summer of 1984 at the Democratic National Convention, Mario Cuomo, the governor of New York State delivered an iconic speech, a revival of the progressive spirit of the FDR New Deal years,

 A shining city is perhaps all the President [Reagan] sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city, another part to the shining city—the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages and most young people can’t afford one. Where students can’t afford the education they need and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate. In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it.

 Even worse, there are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city’s streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show. There are ghettoes where thousands of young people without a job, or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers ever day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces you don’t see, in the places you don’t visit, in your shining city.

Watch the speech here.

 The speech thrust Cuomo pere into the front ranks of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination; in 1992 he seemed to be on the verge of declaring his candidacy, he was hours away from jumping on a plane to begin his campaign in New Hampshire. Unexpectedly, at an Albany press conference he declared he had decided not to run.  The speculation: why he decided not to run  has been endless.

Cuomo fils, in his third term as governor, as was his father, denies he has presidential ambitions. His daily press conferences are national news, he has skillfully guided the state through the swamps of Republican Washington politics, and, and is slowly moving the state towards a staged re-opening, he is “presidential,”

The state still teeters on draconian budget cuts without an infusion of federal dollars, Cuomo addressed the issue, and, with the Republican governor of Maryland issued a plea for funding for states, to pay police, firefighters, school teachers and sharply criticized the last bailout bill for shoveling money to the largest corporations who used the funds to boost their stock prices. Andrew called for a massive infrastructure program to rebuild highways and airports and schools; without assistance states face draconian cuts and the loss of jobs,

The governor and the state budget director have unilateral power to reduce aid to school districts and localities mid-year if the state doesn’t meet projected revenues.   The next revenue report is due from the State Comptroller’s office on Friday.

Last week, it seems like longer than that; Cuomo announced a 100 member blue ribbon commission;  Eric Schmidt, Google CEO (2001-2011) will lead the re-imagining of the state economy, Schmidt appeared briefly by webcast to say he would focus on issues such as “telehealth, remote learning and expanding broadband access.”

Cuomo also announced he would partner with the Gates Foundation to “re-imagine education in New York State,” with a comment,

The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms — why with all the technology you have?”

The Gates Foundation in a statement said,

“[We are] committed to work with New York State on its efforts to ensure equitable access to education for its students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will soon provide more details about the partnership.

Thousands of e-communications filled the governor’s mailbox opposing any relationship with Gates.

The governor, in the spirit of the FDR New Deal has become the nation’s governor; partnering with other governors across the political spectrum, partnering with legislators , fighting the virus and pushing to revive the national economy.

At the peak of the crisis, not enough ventilators, no enough PPE, not enough health professionals Cuomo averred,

We have to get the private and public [health care] systems working together in New York in a way they never had before …  The distinction between private and public hospitals has to go out the window. We’re one health care system.”

 The underlying issue: dollars.  If public and private hospitals coordinate can the state retain the same level of services and lower costs? Create a private-public hospital partnership.

In my view Cuomo is seeking to control Medicaid expenses thorough reorganization of hospitals in the state. Maybe he’s right.

Education is another major item in the state budget.

Every year a combination of parents, school boards, teacher unions and legislators fight to increase state education funding.  Cuomo has grumbled, “we spend more per student than any other state and graduation rates and student progress is way down the list of states.’

Does Cuomo have a plan to use remote learning to control education costs?

An Education Week article asks, “How Effective Is Online Learning? What the Research Does and Doesn’t Tell Us;” research is clear, online learning is less effective than in-person learning, especially for at-risk students.

Cuomo’s rather anonymous education advisory committee  except for national teacher president Randi Weingarten, a resident of New York City, is devoid of New York City educators, a slap at Mayor de Blasio, who just appointed his own education advisory committee.

Bill and Melinda Gates are well aware of public criticism, and, after major stumbles the Foundation has moved in different direction.

We certainly understand why many people are skeptical about the idea of billionaire philanthropists designing classroom innovations or setting education policy. Frankly, we are, to; Bill and I have always been clear that our role isn’t to generate ideas ourselves; it’s to support innovation driven by people who have spent their careers working in education: teachers, administrators, researchers, and community leaders.

But one thing that makes improving education tricky is that even among people who work on the issue, there isn’t much agreement on what works and what doesn’t.

Is the governor using his new found role, his national popularity, to create a pathway to the White House? To reduce funding for education in the state? Or, is he a model for the nation?

Cuomo’s favorability polling is off the charts.

Am I being too cynical?

Is he still the bully simply using the crisis for his own political benefit?

Mario Cuomo’s 1984 speech is as relevant today as in 1984, perhaps more so, the nation desperately needs a leader to meld our nation together, to lead our nation out of the current morass.

Could Cuomo be that leader? Or, is he Geppetto, pulling our strings?

How will school districts determine local budgeting priorities?

Governor Cuomo announced that New York State schools are closed till the end of June, 4800 schools in 700 school districts, CUNY, SUNY and private colleges. Over 4 million students scattered across the state. The decision whether summer schools will be open will be made by the end of May and September openings will be driven by the data as well as whether you can practice social distancing in a school environment. (Watch full press conference here )

Cuomo acknowledged that school opening questions must be addressed: school busing, social distancing in classrooms and the rambunctious nature of kids.

New York City teacher union (UFT) president set a high bar in a Change.org petition,

  • Widespread access to coronavirus testing to regularly check that people are negative or have immunity
  • A process for checking the temperature of everyone who enters a school building
  • Rigorous cleaning protocols and personal protective gear in every school building
  • An exhaustive tracing procedure that would track down and isolate those who have had close contact with a student or staff member who  tests positive for the virus

 National Public Radio (NPR) listed nine pre-conditions for school openings and a 3-minute interview with UFT President Michael Mulgrew. (Read/Listen here)

Chancellor Betty Rosa announced the formation of a task force of stakeholders to guide the decision about the re-opening of schools,

“In the coming weeks we will form a statewide task force made up of educational leaders, including superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, school board members and other stakeholders, to guide the reopening of our schools.  By working together with these partners, we can ensure that our children’s educational, developmental and overall wellbeing is considered during this important discussion.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Health and sharing recommendations with Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.”

The people who are never mentioned and are at the heart of school openings are the district budget folks. They may have different titles, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, Deputy Chancellor for Financial Services, or some other title.

New York State has a 2% cap on school district budget increases (except New York City) and the budget must be approved by voters in the district, in the past, at a May district election, at the same time school board members are elected. This year the school budget vote has been postponed until “after June 1.”

In my years “in the trenches” I was the program chairman, I scheduled students in a 5,000 plus student high school, of course, under the guidance of the principal. How many course offerings? Class size? How many counselors? Deans? As budgets changed from year to year the configuration of the school changed. As the district union rep I sat in on budget meetings, the deputy superintendent was a magician, moving dollars from category to category, maximizing direct services to classrooms.

In a normal year the state budget is passed by April 1 shortly thereafter the state provides budget runs, the amount of dollars for each district. Property tax revenue plus state dollars equal district dollars and budgets are allocated among the schools in the district. A budget is created, registered voters cast their ballots.

This year is unique.

I imagine budget directors are planning a number of scenarios: bad, worse and worst.

I would begin: can I staff all classrooms keeping the current class size? If not, ranking cuts from non-classroom services in order of priority: after school programs, including sports, class trips, professional development, etc. Worst case scenario: lay off teachers and increase class sizes.

You can utilize zero-based budgeting, start with zero and add services according to a pre-determined set of principles,  a bilingual aide in a first grade classroom before an after school arts program;  Advanced Placement  classes or a counselor?

The community is going to vote on a budget before a decision is made over whether schools will be open in September: social distancing, daily temperature-taking, over night school cleaning, etc., what is the cost of these required actions prior to opening schools? Later school openings?  How can I budget for the costs without knowing the pre-opening requirements and the costs?

How will the governor’s hundred member re-opening advisory council interact with the yet to be announced Board of Regents stakeholders group?

Will the governor be prescriptive, or, will school districts have attitude?

These decisions can rip schools and districts apart, pitting parent against parent and teachers against parents, non-parents against parents, with national political politics hovering over all the decisions.

One careful, very careful step at a time.

How will the decision to re-open schools be made? What will re-opened schools look like?

“You can’t bring back a life; you can start a new business”

 “There’s no on/off switch”

Sunday morning Mayor de Blasio outlined his “Restart” proposals (See here  on Twitter) and a few hours later Governor Cuomo outlined his “Reimagine” Plan (Read here).

Perhaos, just perhaps, de Blasio and Cuomo could shake hands, virtujally of course, and work together.

Both plans are light on education,

De Blasio appointed a task force that will report out a draft proposal by June 1st, Cuomo spoke in general terms about a phased re-opening based on two weeks of positive data, aka, the curves continuing to decline.

Cuomo mused about the whether schools should open in the summer. Summer schools to make up for remote learning losses, and, acknowledged that we were unprepared for the instantaneous switch from classroom instruction to remote learning.

Some sections of the state have low levels of COVID infections and low rates of transmission: Cuomo proposed a phased re-opening starting with low incidence sections of the state: will schools be included?

School openings must be guided by medical advice; however, the decision will be made by the governor.

The UFT started a Change.org petition with specific requirements before reopening.

The following things need to be in place when buildings reopen:

  • Widespread access to coronavirus testing to regularly check that people are negative or have immunity
  • A process for checking the temperature of everyone who enters a school building
  • Rigorous cleaning protocols and personal protective gear in every school building
  • An exhaustive tracing procedure that would track down and isolate those who have had close contact with a student or staff member who  tests positive for the virus

Will the unions, school boards and parents be involved in the re-opening decisions?

The contradiction is that until the re-start, until businesses reopen the loss of revenues to the state will result in lower and lower revenue to cities: fewer policeman, fireman and teachers.

There is a cry: tax the billionaires.

Thomas Piketty, a French economist, argues, “Billionaires should be taxed out of existence;” others argue that its illusory, billionaires create corporations that create millions of jobs for the middle class.

A lengthier debate …

The state has announced another cut, a 20% cut in the budget, and, the date for school budget votes has not been set by the governor. If the state does not re-open there could be increasing reductions after July 1.

Could the continuing low levels of revenue result in layoffs of state and local employees?

Could it lead to teacher layoffs? After the 2008 Great Recession there were teacher layoffs across the state, not in New York City.

How do you weigh the positive economic impact of  a restart versus an upsurge in COVID infections?

The governor has made it clear that there are specific data points that must be met before businesses can be reopened and the reopening will be phased in guided by “precautions.”

Tourism is a major driver of the New York City economy; under what conditions will tourists return to the city?  Restaurants are also drivers of employment; once again, under what conditions can restaurants reopen?  Without tourism and restaurants it is hard to imagine the return of pre-COVD revenues.

Federal infusions of dollars are a stopgap until the economy can be restarted and it could easily be years before pre-COVID levels of revenues are reached: fewer dollars for schools and economic woes for the city.

Let’s raise a few school re-opening questions?

How will school buses practice social distancing?

In New York City and other Big Five cities, how will public transit practice social distancing?  Will every rider be required to wear a mask?  Will teachers feel safe taking public transit to get to school?

Is it possible to take the temperature of every bus/train rider?

What will classrooms look like?

Can you social distance in classrooms?

Can kids go to school on alternate days to reduce class size by half? And only move to full days if the data moves below medically established data points.

Can secondary schools move to end-to-end sessions?  As a student my high school had end-to-end sessions, as a teacher I programmed a 5,000 plus student high school on three overlapping sessions. My first year of teaching I was on late session – 11:40 to 6:00, some teachers took college classes in the morning, other partied late into the night (without social distancing, in fact, the opposite)

Would all teachers be tested before they could be returned to the classroom?

Can schools reopen and hold regular classes with the provisions in the change.org petition?

Dr Fauci warns about a return in the fall of both the regular flu and COVID.

I agree with Cuomo and de Blasio, every step must be guided by medical evidence, and hovering is the impact economic impact on the citizenry.

Over the next month or two the questions I raised will require answers.

Check out an old labor song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8Jas7J7JLA

Stay Safe.

When Will You Feel Comfortable Sending Your Children Back to School?

It is increasingly looking like the powers that be are taking steps, albeit baby steps, to re-open the economy.

The President, reversing himself, has pushed re-opening decisions to the states; the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recommends a phased return to normalcy.

State-by-State Reopening in Phase II. Individual states can move to Phase II when they are able to safely diagnose, treat, and isolate COVID-19 cases and their contacts. During this phase, schools and businesses can reopen, and much of normal life can begin to resume in a phased approach. However, some physical distancing measures and limitations on gatherings will still need to be in place to prevent transmission from accelerating again.

Governor Cuomo, issued another Executive Order extending PAUSE until at least May 15th, and, coordinating decisions with a multi-state consortium of states (NY. NJ, Conn, RI, Maryland, Delaware).

Denmark is the first European nation to re-open schools, with social distancing in schools and a NY Times article reports trepidation among parents.

Parents have tough decisions.

Should I send my child to an out-of-town college? Take a gap-year? Transfer to a college near home? Colleges and parents are mulling the options  and colleges are preparing for returning to on campus classes as well as continuing remote learning.

School districts across the state are facing dramatic budget reductions. How will your district respond to the reductions? Will class size be increased? Fewer course offerings? Reductions in sports and other after school activities?  In New York City the budgeting process is in full swing. The Mayor outlined cuts in school budgets, the Mayor’s budget must be reconciled with the City Council; the budget must be in place by the end of June. School budgets will be available on April 23rd.

The New York Times points to a disturbing study,

The study projects that students who lack steady instruction during the coronavirus school shutdown might retain only 70 percent of their annual reading gains compared with a normal year. Projections for the so-called Covid slide in math look even bleaker. Depending on grade level, researchers say, students could lose between half and all of the achievement growth one would expect in a normal academic year.

 And goes on to suggest specific policies,

A learning reversal of this magnitude could hobble an entire generation unless state leaders quickly work to reverse the slide. Any reasonable approach would include: diagnostic testing to determine what children know when they return to the classroom; aggressive remedial plans and an expanded school calendar that makes up for lost instructional time;

 Long Island Opt Out, with over 25,000 Facebook followers opposes any addition to the testing regimen.

Let’s not forget that little event on November 3rd, the presidential election. The President is pushing as hard as he can to end re-open the economy.  The scientists worry about moving too quickly and watch a “second wave” of coronavirus “hot spots.”

How do you decide? Possibly a life altering decision for families.

In a year or two we should have a vaccine and more effective treatments as well as the ability to test everyone.

I have no advice; every parent will have to decide for themselves.

How Disastrous is the NYS Budget? Why Can’t the Governor/Legislature Follow the Federal Model?

If this was a normal year the education community would be focused on the race to the April 1 budget deadline. For months advocates and legislators have been dueling with the governor: Will the Foundation Aid formula be adjusted to benefit the lowest wealth aka, the poorest districts? Will the governor acknowledge the $3 billion plus dollars owed to school districts as a result of the CFE lawsuit decision? How will the differences in proposed school aid (governor: 800M, the Board of Regents 2B) be resolved?

Additionally, non-budgetary items may or may not have been added to the budget by the governor: possibly legalization of marijuana, rolling back bail reforms, easing the voting restrictions, etc.

We’re in a new world.

This year’s budget is unique: the governor will have almost total authority to allocate the budget dollars in slices, “tranches,” monthly or perhaps quarterly; as the year progresses slices of budget dollars may increase or decrease.

As I write, midday on April 1 the governor and the legislative leaders are still entangled in creating a budget.

The impact could be drastic cuts in school funding, perhaps layoffs.

Why can’t the state allocate endless dollars to avert economic calamities as the federal government has done?

Washington can issue as many dollars as they please, through the Federal Reserve they can raise or lower interest rates and increase and decrease the amount of currency in circulation. Federal debts are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the government. In other words the feds can print money and borrow money (selling bonds); there are no constitutional limits on federal debt.

States cannot issue currency and must have a balanced budget; they can only borrow dollars for capital projects.

For centuries governments abided by a “laissez faire” economic policy. Depressions and prosperity, booms and busts, were guided by an “invisible hand,” an almost religious belief in the power of the marketplace.

Adam Smith (1776), wrote,

Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention … By pursuing his own interests, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

 Milton Freedman, a Nobel Prize economist moved the marketplace model to education, schools should compete, the origin of the belief in charter schools and vouchers. Adam Smith lives on in the minds of far right and a few of the wealthiest.

Beginning with FDR’s response to the Great Depression John Maynard Keynes has been the guiding force driving economies.

 Keynesian theory allows for increased government spending during recessionary times, it also calls for government restraint in a rapidly growing economy. This prevents the increase in demand that spurs inflation. It also forces the government to cut deficits and save for the next down cycle in the economy.

 In our neo-Keynesian world even Republicans, well, most Republicans, follow Keynes’ philosophy, as evidenced by the $2 trillion pushed into the economy, cash payments, enhanced unemployment insurance, delayed mortgage payments, small business grants and loans, dollars that will be spent; hopefully, to kick start the faltering economy.

Until the coronavirus pandemic is stabilized the economy is unlikely to resuscitate in the short run and it may continue to deteriorate. Unemployment may reach levels unknown since the Great Depression, airlines grounded, hotels and restaurants empty. Once a treatment and vaccine is created the economy, the world’s economy will be revived; it may take years to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Why does Cuomo have almost total control over the New York State budget?

 The reasons are two-fold, the state constitution and the judiciary.

 The New York State constitution was amended in 1927 giving the governor responsibility for submitting an annual comprehensive and balanced plan of revenues and expenditures, and, prohibits the Legislature from acting on other spending measures before acting on the Executive Budget.

 The legislature may not alter an appropriation bill submitted by the governor except to strike out or reduce items therein, but it may add thereto items of appropriation provided that such additions are stated separately and distinctly from the original items of the bill and refer each to a single object or purpose.

In January the governor submits a budget with a set amount; the legislative can “strike out or reduce items” and can only add items “separately or distinctly” from the governor’s budget.

In the 90’s Assembly speaker Silver challenged the application of the amended section of the constitution; if you want to go into the weeds read a discussion here.

The Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, in a convoluted decision (Pataki v Silver) denied the appellants and upheld the budgetary power of the governor. In 2005 voters turned down an attempt to amend the constitution and restore equality to the process.

Critics of the executive budget system point to a fundamental imbalance between the governor and the Legislature. They’re right: when it comes to shaping the annual state budget, the executive and legislative branches are not co-equal.  In financial terms, the budget is supposed to be balanced—but the budget-making process decidedly is not.

 The budgets are no longer fought out on the floor of the legislative bodies; they are fought out in the media as advocates appeal to voters. In a normal year lobbyists would be pounding hallways of the Legislative Office Building (LOB), on Tuesdays, hundreds of advocates would flood into to Albany to plead their case to local legislators. E-Mails would fill legislators’ e-files by the hundreds.

The governor would weigh the impact of the opinion of the public, not the views of the legislative bodies. Governor Cuomo became an artist at balancing the needs of communities across the state. In some ways a modern day Machiavellian figure, more feared than loved.

The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in Cuomo, as Trump spins the crisis, appealing to his tribe, Cuomo has been straightforward, portraying the crisis as a threat to humanity and truly taking charge; his daily briefings are spellbinding, frightening in painting a possible dystopian future and warm in his portrayal of his family.

More on the impact of the budget after final passage.

Signup for the John Hopkins Center for Health Security daily updates here, the best source for expert analysis and facts.

Exercise, meditate, communicate with friends and family (at a distance), the dangers are not only the virus; the dangers are your own mental health.

Listen to Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qde5NMy7WTU

Sheltering in Place: Children, Parents and Teachers Coping With (What Could Be) the New Normal

My phone “pinged,” time to confirm my reservation for the April Board of Regents meeting: not this month. Governor Cuomo just extended the state-wide school closing until April 15th, and probably for a lot longer.

Online, or remote learning, has completed its first week in New York City. The enormous undertaking is incredibly complex. I spoke with a supervisor, Zoom meetings with teachers, with the school leadership team, with the superintendent, checking on teacher lessons, contacting parents; the city is using Google Classroom. I asked a teacher: who are the kids who are participating?  S/he said, “About half the kids, others are having trouble getting online, and the kids were a cross section, the high achievers and others.” A start: hopefully it will improve over the weeks or months ahead. Not surprisingly, in addition to an opportunity gap there is a technology gap, the NY Times has a scathing article. (“Locked Out of the Virtual Classroom”)

In one online fifth grade class the teacher began with a yoga session and moved on to research assignments, “What is an endangered species?”  “How do species become endangered?” “How can we protect endangered species?”  How many students are fully engaged?  How long should the kids be online? How much homework? We’re all exploring a new world.

The questions from teachers and parents keep rolling in,

Will Regents Exams be cancelled?

How will grades be determined?

How will schools determine high school graduation?

Is the State waiving student teaching requirements?

Others states set out detailed guidelines, New Mexico.

High school seniors will earn credits and achieve eligibility for graduation by completing a locally designed demonstration of competency, which may include:

  • Passing a locally designed test,
  • Completing a locally designed series of assignments,
  • Achieving a set cut score on a college entrance exam,
  • Demonstrating applied work experience.

The UFT, the NYC teacher union and the Department of Education issued roles and responsibilities “remote learning,”

New York State hasn’t sent out any guidance, one reason, the state budget is due April 1.  What were the major issues a few weeks ago are gone: changes in Foundation Aid, the funding of the CFE lawsuit, state aid; all overwhelmed by an anticipated 15 billion dollar budget shortfall.

The NYS budget will be in the hands of the governor and he will allocate dollars: perhaps monthly or quarterly:  school districts creating tentative budgets.

Will the school districts hold budget votes in early May?

High wealth school district receive dollars primarily from property taxes, low wealth from state aid: how will the state reduce these glaring disparities?

Will school districts face teacher layoffs in September?

Is a billionaires’ tax on the table?

The questions of the moment may be overshadowed by the larger questions; questions that are frightening, while the president talks about “opening” by Easter, world class scientists see a troublesome scenario.

Looking … into the future, what do you anticipate? Will COVID-19 ever disappear?

What it looks like is that we’re going to have a substantial wave of this disease right through basically the globe ….

 And the question then is: What’s going to happen? Is this going to disappear completely? Are we going to get into a period of cyclical waves? Or are we going to end up with low level endemic disease that we have to deal with?

  Most people believe that that first scenario where this might disappear completely is very, very unlikely, it just transmits too easily in the human population, so more likely waves or low level disease.

 A lot of that is going to depend on what we as countries, as societies, do. If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.

Every morning I jump on my bike and take a long, lonely ride, the birds chirping, the wind blowing in my face, in late afternoon, back on the bike, zipping along empty roads, watching the sun glint off the bay ….  spending the day “sheltering in place,” at least I’m getting into better and better shape.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “We Could Fly”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KhzRgqcBBc

Stay Safe

The NYS Legislative Session and Education: What Can We Expect in Albany?

Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York County, he wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s lifeliberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

On January 8th Governor Cuomo laid out his priorities for the 2020 session in his State of the State speech to a joint meeting of both house of the legislature and a few thousand invited guests.

For Cuomo’s first eight years he faced a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate with the Governor as the referee. Cuomo cracked the whip; the progressive arm of the Democratic Party was constantly thwarted as Cuomo successfully increased his authority.

In this year’s speech, well over an hour, the governor had a long list of proposals,

Cuomo’s most high-profile proposals – laid out in his annual address Wednesday in Albany – include legalizing recreational marijuana and calling for state legislators to reveal their tax returns. He is also proposing guaranteed paid sick leave for nearly all workers statewide and an expansion of universal pre-kindergarten, as well as a $3 billion environmental bond act to combat climate change.

 And, barely mentioned education.

In about two weeks he will reveal his budget, and, how he intends to close a $6.1 billion gap primarily caused by structural increases in the cost of Medicaid.

In New York State the governor controls the budget. His control is the result of two NYS Court of Appeals decisions, Silver v Pataki that affirmed the powers of the executive office.

 When it comes to appropriations bills, the Senate and Assembly can only reduce the spending the governor has proposed or eliminate it entirely. Legislators cannot change the conditions on how the governor wants that money spent. They can add spending, but the governor has the power to line-item veto those additions.

 In the run up to the 2014 gubernatorial election a few teacher unions on Long Island opposed Cuomo and supported Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary. After an easy victory in the general election in the 2015 legislative session Cuomo used the budget to add a year to teacher probation and a number of pro-charter school items.

The Working Families Party has been publicly critical of the governor from the left; perhaps critical is too kind a term, at times they were far harsher than the Republicans. An election commission tasked with working out raises for the members of the legislature also sharply increased the threshold for a place on the ballot in state-wide elections, a decision negatively impacting the WFP’s ability to get on the ballot.

Politics is a full contact sport.

The pressure from the left will now come from the new, young progressives elected to the Senate in 2018.

Shelly Mayer, the chair of the Senate Education Committee held a series of forums and hearing across the state asking for feedback about the controverisal Foundation Aid Formula, the state’s share of school funding.

The foundation aid formula was devised in 2007 to drive financial equity among New York‘s school districts by using state aid to balance uneven property taxes. The formula weighs factors like a district’s poverty, educational costs, regional costs like labor, and local property values

 I attended the NYC hearing: Read my testimony: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YUHhryzXza8-utRP8_FdeEuPK0Yne_u9Ovica3S1C6I/edit

No one is happy with the formula.

Read all 100 plus pages of the Foundation Aid Formula here.

The complexity of the formula and the competing interests of school districts will make it unlikely that the legislature, in an abbreviated session, can address both the inequities and the political thicket.

The NYS legislature adjourns in June 2nd, three weeks earlier than the previous sessions due to June 23rh party primaries.

In my view, as I wrote in my testimony; the best will be the appointment of a commission to return with recommended changes, or, a commission whose report will become law unless the legislature amends the recommendations avoiding unpopular votes.

Another option is simply doing nothing.

Whether the state still “owes” school districts dollars (for NYC: 1.1 billion) under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit will eventually be decided in court. The governor has made it clear he considers the CFE lawsuit a closed matter.

Are there any other education issues?

Yes, the education dollars for the 20-21 school year will the impending state budget deficit impact the State Education request for a $2 billion increase? Probably. How vigorously will the class of 2018 in the Senate fight for education dollars and how effective will the democratic leader, Andrea Stewart –Cousins be in reining  in or unleashing her new members?

The 1971 Hecht-Callandra law requires  that specialized high schools in New York City only use an examination for admittance; repealing or amending the law did not gain any traction during the 2019 legislative session. The criticism of the exam, the only requirement for admission is widespread, finding an alternative has eluded legislators.

The governor has yet to sign the bill taking over two Long Island schools districts, Hempstead and Wyandanch, if he fails to sign the bills die. The school districts have been dysfunctional for years; the governor has been silent on his reticence to sign the bill.

Deep in the night of March 31 as bills are passed before they are read:  who knows?

Cuomo showed political acuity in not joining the rush to the White House, de Blasio’s campaign never gained traction and Bloomberg is spending tens of millions and is still in the low single digits. Where does Cuomo want to go?  A fourth term in Albany? A run for the Senate against Gillebrand in a primary?  Will he use his budgetary powers to add a non-budget issue that will burnish his reputation, gain political allies or punish perceived enemies?

No man’s lifeliberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Postscript: California Governor Newsom makes education funding the # 1 priority in the state with a wide range of funding priorities.