Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

Will Anti-Teacher, Pro-Charter School Politics Help Cuomo in the 2016 Presidential Primaries? Is Cuomo the Amoral Politican?

“Every French soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack,” attributed to Napoleon, supposedly refers to every French soldier believing he could rise through the ranks to leadership, today it is the dream of every elected official, anyone can become President and Andrew Cuomo is looking to 2016 and 2020.

Jim Malatras and Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s policy strategists are probably pouring over dense political data.

If Hillary runs, as everyone expects, she will probably not have serious democratic opposition, unless Elizabeth Warren decides to challenge her from the left, if Hillary decides not to run the game is on.

Elizabeth Warren on the left, Governor Martin O’Malley from Maryland, a Hillary stand in, California’s Jerry Brown, and, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo are all possibilities.

Cuomo’s political persona is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. New York is a marriage equality state, a medical marijuana state, supports a range of women’s equity legislation and the SAFE Act limits distribution of handguns as well as a 2% property tax cap, limitations on public employee pensions, liberal use of tax breaks and tax free zones, and most recently attacks on teachers. The NY Daily News reports on a meeting with their editorial board,

Cuomo, during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving and entrenched public education system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”

Cuomo said he will push a plan that includes more incentives — and sanctions — that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it,” Cuomo said. “I feel exactly opposite.”

Cuomo accused teachers of having tried to torpedo the Common Core curriculum in fighting the evaluation standards — and expects they will again.

“They will be using it the way they used it, I believe — to get the parents upset last year about this entire Common Core agenda,” he said.

You may ask: why would Cuomo not only give up on teacher votes and chose teachers as enemies? The answer is his team believes charter school support; both in dollars and voters are more beneficial than teacher support; in communities of color charter schools are popular and Cuomo may be aiming at Black and Latino voters in early primary states.

The winter and spring of 2016 are battles in state after state – one primary after another leading up to the Democratic convention.

Who are the voters in democratic presidential primaries?

Usually party loyalists, older voters and issue voters; however in 2008 and 2012 Obama changed the scenario – through the skillful use of social media, and, hundreds of millions of dollars, Obama mobilized first time voters, college kids, millennials, women and voters of color.

Obama ran against George Bush, ignored Hillary, opposed the wars; he was younger, more dynamic and appealed to a new electorate.

Who would have thought in the fall of 2007 that a first term Senator, an Afro-American, with an Arab name would not only grab the nomination away from Hillary Clinton but defeat Republicans twice?

Cuomo will defeat his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino by 20% or more and garner national headlines. Citizen’s United allows unlimited fund-raising and the incredible influx of pro-charter school dollars served its purpose.

In January Cuomo will make his State of the State address, whether he continues his assault on teachers or presses ahead with his women’s equity agenda or anti-corruption, we will see.

Will he support eliminating caps on charter school altogether? Transfer the unused state cap to the city? Raising the NYS cap? And, how hard will he push?

The teacher evaluation law is only in its second year, first year in New York City, does he actually want to revise the incredibly dense law in the upcoming session? What does he mean by incentives? Merit pay for teachers?
Why is he willing to ignore teacher union political clout? And, the larger enigmatic question: how much clout does the teacher union have?

The state teacher union, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), is one of the largest contributors in the state, how many teachers actually work in political campaigns? Make phone calls? Knock on doors? The grunge work that wins elections.

Teacher unions are in the forefront in gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin (Scott Walker v. Mary Burke) and Pennsylvania (Tom Wolf v. Tom Corbett).

Cuomo is betting that if he runs in 2016 democratic primary voters will pick him out of the pack, the calendar is below:

Iowa caucus: January 18
New Hampshire: January 26
Colorado caucuses: February 2
Minnesota caucuses
Saturday, February 6
Nevada caucuses
Saturday, February 13
South Carolina
Tuesday, February 16
North Carolina
Tuesday, February 23
Tuesday, March 1
Colorado caucuses

Will the Cuomo game plan: both right and left and anti-teacher, pro-testing, pro-charter schools resonate with democratic voters in the early primary states?

You may ask: Cuomo can be both devious and strategic?

Of course, he can decide to only push so hard and blame the Assembly democrats for obstructing his teacher legislative game plan, or, twist arms and get what he wants.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, an iconic founding father, obtained love letters that Alexander Hamilton sent to his mistress and used the letters to besmirch Hamilton’s reputation.

Politics, from Jefferson to Lincoln to Cuomo, is an amoral struggle, do what you must do to achieve your ends; for Jefferson to eliminate a political opponent, for Lincoln to get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment, for Cuomo, to gain the democrat slot on the 2016 ballot.

And the job of public school advocates is to use our votes, our dollars and our advocacy to defeat the bad guys.

Only One Dog per Hydrant: Cuomo and de Blasio Battle for Power – 4-Year Olds May Be the Victims

Bill de Blasio ran a brilliant campaign for mayor, a textbook campaign, a motto: “A Tale of Two Cities” and two policies, stop and frisk and universal pre-K. Mayor Bloomberg had already sharply curtailed the number of police “stop and frisks,” one of the core campaign issues was resolved prior to Election Day.

The number of street stops under the police department’s heavily criticized stop-and-frisk tactic has plummeted 80 percent in recent months compared with the same time last year, (11/8/13)

The pre-K plan – a pre-kindergarten class in every public school and an after-school program in high poverty at-risk middle schools, the funding was embedded in the “A Tale of Two Cities” mantra – tax the rich, at least the richer, a small increase in taxes for earners of over $500,000 a year. The campaign rhetoric was reality,

“There are some who whisper that our drive to tax the wealthy to fund pre-K and after-school is just political posturing — an effort to heap scorn on the wealthy to win an election,” Mr. de Blasio told lawmakers at a hearing on the state budget, “But the election in New York City is over,” the mayor added, “and we are here to work with our leaders in Albany to govern.”

Within weeks of his inauguration deB released a 14-page plan laying out how the city could have classes ready by the fall.

In New York State all taxes are set by the legislature in Albany including local sales and income taxes. A heavily democratic Assembly, a democratic Governor and a Senate with shared leadership – if pressure could be brought on the republican leader, Dean Skelos, the new mayor’s two core policies would be in place – a sharp decrease in stop and frisk and universal pre-K. The campaign began: endorsement after endorsement, community organizations, business leaders, faith-based leaders, the momentum was building.

Surprisingly, the democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, not only had doubts, he had his own plan, to phase in a voluntary pre-K program across the state with funding in the state budget.

“I know the ‘tale of two cities’ the answer to the tale of two cities is not to create two states,” Cuomo said in a WNYC radio interview blasting de Blasio’s plan to hike city income taxes on the rich to pay for universal pre-K classes within the five boroughs. “The answer to inequity and inequality is not to create more inequity and inequality,” Cuomo added.

The two elephants began to fight, An African proverb: when elephants fight the grass gets trampled.

Bill de Blasio appeared to be a long shot in the NYC mayoral stampede: the favorite, Christine Quinn, the Speaker of the City Council, John Liu, the NYC Comptroller, Bill Thompson, the former Comptroller, who was outspent by 10:1, came within five percentage points in the 2009 mayoral election. de Blasio was a City Council member from Brownstone Brooklyn and the NYC Public Advocate. The pundits dismissed de Blasio, too far to the left, no citywide appeal, there was no way he could end up in the top two and make it into the runoff – clearly no candidate had any chance of accumulating 40% of the primary vote.

John Liu was dragged down by rumors of campaign funding improprieties, Christine Quinn too close to Bloomberg and Bill Thompson too “wishy-washy,” running too safe a campaign. de Blasio attracted voters from across the spectrum, white and black, in Manhattan and the boroughs; he garnered 40% of the primary vote and swept away his republican opponent in the November general election.

Eliot Spitzer, a hard-charging governor shouldered aside all opposition, resigned after his prostitution escapades, his successor, stumbled badly and Andrew Cuomo was catapulted into office. Secretive, bullying, demanding and extraordinarily popular Cuomo has carefully burnished his reputation. Socially liberal Cuomo piloted a marriage equity law through the legislature, in education a teacher-evaluation plan supported by the NYC teacher union and fiscally conservative, a statewide property tax cap, lowering business taxes, supporting increases in the number of casinos, and advocating for low tax economic zones in high unemployment regions, environmentally suspicious of hydraulic fracking and increasing and protecting state park lands. In an era of politician approval ratings in the 20% to 30% range Cuomo’s favorable ratings remained inconceivably above 60%.

Hillary Clinton is the presumed 2016 democratic presidential candidate, however, if Hillary does not run – then whom? Vice President Biden, California Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Elizabeth Warren, or, a number of governors, why not Andrew Cuomo?

There is only room for one elephant in the state, or, more coarsely, only one dog per hydrant.

Derailing the deB pre-k plan both weakens a rising elephant and adds to the Cuomo resume as a fiscal conservative, opposing the ultra-liberal mayor.

deB can either do battle with the incumbent lord of the castle or pay homage, swear an oath of fealty to the occupant of the Albany executive mansion.

The governor avers, “The answer to inequity and inequality is not to create more inequity and inequality,” if so, why does he continue to support one of the most unfair, the most unequal education funding formula in the nation?

Bruce Baker, an economics professor at Rutgers University and the author of the school finance 101 blog skewers the funding formula. The difference between the high wealth and low wealth districts are staggering. The high wealth districts spend many, many thousands more dollars per student, have more music and art courses/programs, more Advanced Placement classes, more elective subjects, lower class sizes, by every measurement high wealth districts provide more elaborate educational programs. High wealth district have more psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors and nurses, the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer, with each year more and more districts are slipping in the “stress’ category, rising expenses and declining revenues.

The governor’s budget would continue and add to the inequality, offering funding for universal pre-k classes when districts cannot afford full day kindergartens.

The Lord of the Manor has to keep his vassals in line.

If we want to break the cycle of poverty universal pre-k is a step, however, we have to start as early as possible:

• Workshops for expectant and new mothers in neighborhood schools.
• Workshops for caregivers and toddlers, once again, in neighborhood schools.
• Pre-school beginning at age 3
• A Community School model: a wide range of school-based social services
• Linkages to job training, housing placements and employment
• GED (TASC) opportunities located in the community, preferably the neighborhood school.

Unfortunately the road to the White House doesn’t trek through communities of poverty. Creating a persona that matches potential voters leads through middle class suburbs, not through Brownsville or East New York.

Than again, Louis XVI did lose his head.

“Dear Chancellor Walcott”: A Response to the Defense of the Portfolio Strategy (A Hint: It Really Hasn’t Been Working)

Dear Chancellor Walcott:

I read the text of your testimony before the Education Committee of the New York City Council with interest.

In the waning days of the administration I find your retrospective lacking.

The Board of Education closed the first high school in the late eighties and with the creation of the Chancellor’s High School District the closings accelerated. The $54 million of Gates dollars in collaboration with a not-for-profit, New Visions for Public Schools created a school creation model. The Gates dollars supported a community partner.

After the Department announced the closing of Thomas Jefferson a request for proposal (RFP) resulted, about two dozen organizations attended a series of workshops assisting the applicants. Six applicants received planning grants and four proposals were accepted. The process included the entire community. At Taft we created a small high school with a Medical Science theme envvisioned to work with Bronx Lebanon Hospital located a few blocks from the school.

The philosophy: schools must be well-integrated into their neighborhoods, a philosophy you have abandoned.

Unfortunately the current guys, the portfolio people, abandoned community engagement.

You argue, We did not embark upon this strategy lightly. Our schools were in a terrible crisis when the Mayor took office in 2002, and something serious needed to be done for the sake of our students’ futures …

The graduation rate at Wingate High School in Brooklyn in 2002 was an alarming 29 percent. That meant 71 percent of students weren’t graduating!

At Park West, the graduation rate was 31 percent. At Erasmus, it was 32 percent. … At Seward Park, it was 36 percent … These were disastrous situations, and I could cite a dozen more..

Erasmus closed in the early nineties; the 32% graduation rate must be the total of all the small schools? I don’t know.

I served on the SURR Review Teams for the other schools, a four-day in depth review of every aspect of the school.

Wingate had an excellent caring, dedicated staff and grossly inept school leadership. It was disgraceful, two weeks into the term the programming was a disaster. Why didn’t the department replace the leadership?

Park West wrote a grant and used the money to buy the Johns Hopkins Talent Development Model, a highly regarded turnaround model. The SURR Team Leader wrote an exemplary report – you guys are doing everything right! Too bad, the Department closed the school.

At many of these schools, the dysfunction had persisted for years—and often decades. Countless efforts to turn them around had come and gone, but the culture of failure never changed. Something needed to be done.
In some schools the dysfunction was so severe that closing was welcome – others could have benefited from the assignment of new, competent leadership.

There is often a common refrain: Give the failing school more time. Give its leaders a few more years to turn it around. The school will improve.

You guys select the leaders, select leaders who can lead a school, no one is asking you to recycle failed leadership.

But when a school continues to fail its students after receiving additional support, we cannot continue to kick the can down the road. Allowing our students to fall further and further behind is not an option. Students only have one shot, and if a school is not delivering we have a moral obligation to pursue different approaches, ones that we have seen repeatedly succeeding.

While I totally agree that students only have one shot – are the approaches “repeatedly succeeding”?

The unregulated college recovery – sit in front of a computer terminal for a few hours and earn credits, mark your own kids’ papers, the Department knew that graduation rates were inflated due to morally corrupt practices.

In the just-released State Education Department (SED) report over 50% of students entering two-year colleges require remediation across the state.
Using the College and Career Readiness metric (grades of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the Algebra Regents) the readiness rates are:

Blacks: 12.5%
Hispanics: 15.7%
English language learners: 7.3%
Students with disabilities: 4.9%

You proudly acclaim, Over the course of this administration, we have replaced 164 of our lowest-performing schools with better options and opened 654 new schools. Those new, small schools often serve the same student populations, in the same buildings. With a fresh school culture, a clear mission, and moving parts working in unison, they achieve results.

Chancellor Walcott, the results are not encouraging. Of the 12.5% of Blacks who are College and Career Ready how many are Afro-American males? I suspect in the single digits. How can you gloat when fewer than 10% of Afro-American male “graduate” from high school prepared? What does a diploma mean? And, how many of these students ever complete college? What is the six-year college drop-out rate? We both know it approaches 90%

The landscape is dramatically different today than it once was. We have become a nationally-recognized model for urban school systems, and our portfolio philosophy is a major reason why.

Yes, we have been closing schools for twenty-five years and your administration dramatically accelerated the closings. In no way would I defend the Taft’s or the Theodore Roosevelt’s. I worry that we fudge data rather than admit that we have a long way to go – a very long way.

In a system of one million students, and millions of stakeholders, not every decision will achieve uniform agreement. But in the end, this administration has stood up for our families and students, leveling the playing field wherever we could.

We have worked to ensure that geographic boundaries and socioeconomic status do not determine the quality of the schools children have access to.

Our portfolio strategy has helped to reverse a deplorable situation, one that prevented generations of children in New York City from succeeding. It has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of students for the better.

As you are well aware the majority of parents do not support your policies. Every closing public engagement meeting is crowded with angry parents objecting to the latest school closing or co-location. Rejecting neighborhoods and establishing a system that abjures neighborhood schools is arrogant.

I would hope the new guys/gals will be sensitive to communities, will establish policies to build communities, to coordinate services. To quote Hillary Clinton, “It takes a village ….,” (not a bus pass).