Tag Archives: Working Family Party

Eva, Andrew and NYS Politics: Why is Eva Moskowitz, the Success Academy Network CEO so politically influential?

A quick review: The charter school law in New York State passed in December, 1998 at a lame duck session of the legislature called by Governor Pakati – two items on the agenda, the charter school bill and a raise, BTW, the last raise legislators received!  The law  established a quota on the number of charter schools, currently New York City  is about 25 schools below the quota, the quota for the remainder of the state is about 150 schools below the quota. Supporters of charter schools range from Milton Freedman acolytes, the anti-teacher union cabal, and, recently, Republicans feasting on charter school political action dollars. The Republicans have very few charter schools in their districts.

Under the law the Charter School Institute, part of the State University (SUNY) and the Board of Regents are charter school authorizers. The Charter School Institute maintains a detailed website – Check out here. Check out the Charter School Office of the New York State Education Department here. While the organizations, SUNY and the NYSED must comply with the law they have differing standards re approving charter school applications and renewals.

Charter Schools receive authorizations for five years, and, in the fifth year the authorizer reviews the performance of the school, The SUNY Charter School Institute extends the charter for an additional five years, or, rarely, closes the charter school. The NYSED Charter School Office can recommend to the Regents reauthorizing charters from two to a full five years, or, fail to renew and close the charter. See the just released “NYSED Protocols for Charter School Site Visits: 2017-18.

In the Spring, 2017 the SUNY Charter School Institute submitted ten requests for the extension of charters that were years away from renewal to the Board of Regents, the schools were all in the Eva Moskowitz run Success Academy Network, The Regents returned the requests to SUNY with the following comments,

Renewals to Charters Authorized by the Trustees of the State University of New York 
Your Committee recommends that the Board of Regents return the proposed charters [ten Success Academy Charter Schools with two, three and four years remaining before expiration of the charter] to the Trustees of the State University of New York for reconsideration with the following comment and recommendation:

Approving the renewal of any charter school years before the expiration of the charter does not allow timely review of the school’s educational and fiscal soundness, community support, legal compliance, or means by which the school will meet or exceed enrollment and retention targets for students with disabilities, English language learners and students who are eligible applicants for the free and reduced price lunch program. The charters should be abandoned, and the schools should be directed to resubmit the application no earlier than one year prior to the expiration of the charter term.

Under the law the extensions will go into effect after 90 days if SUNY chooses not to withdraw the renewal requests.

Why would the Charter School Institute even consider extending charters years ahead of time?  Remember the song: “Whatever Eva wants …?

Additionally, the Charter School Committee of SUNY released draft regulations: SUNY will approve plans submitted by charter networks for teacher certification in SUNY-authorized charter schools without the formal teacher certification required for all other teachers in the state.  Public comment forms open from 7/26 for 45 days here. The SUNY Charter School Institute indicated the change was necessary due to the difficulty in recruiting certified teachers; no evidence was presented to support the claim. The regulation appears to grant charter school networks wide discretion in approving prospective charter school teacher candidates.

Commissioner Elia and the Chancellor Rosa expressed  “concerns” over the plan,

“The Board of Regents and State Education Department are focused on ensuring that strong and effective teachers with the proper training, experience and credentials are educating New York’s children in every public school – including charter schools,” …. “Our review of SUNY’s teacher certification proposal is cause for concern in maintaining this expectation.”

On July 17th Ed in the Apple submitted comments to the Charter School Institute urging the Institute to withdraw the proposal and seek other avenues to recruit teachers. (Read here).

The SUNY Board of Trustees is comprised of 18 members, 15 of whom are appointed by the Governor, with consent of the NYS Senate.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the State University of New York.  The Charter Schools Committee is a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees that oversees SUNY authorized charter schools. Consisting of four members [three lawyers and a businessman], the Committee “approves or denies charter applications, revisions and renewals, administers a statewide charter school grant program, and sets SUNY charter school policies and standards.”

The SUNY Board belongs to the governor.

The Regents are responsible for “the general supervision of all educational activities within the State. The Regents are organized into standing committees, subcommittees and work groups whose members and chairs are appointed by the Chancellor.”

The Board comprises 17 members elected by a joint meeting of both houses of the State Legislature for 5 year terms [actually by the Democratic majority]: 1 from each of the State’s 13 judicial districts and 4 members who serve at large. Regents are unsalaried and are reimbursed only for travel and related expenses in connection with their official duties.

The governor has no statutory authority over the Regents.

Why does Eva Moskowitz have so much clout?  Why is the governor supporting policies clearing benefiting Moskowitz?

The 2018 Gubernatorial Election:

Three years ago Cuomo had to fight off attacks from the left in his own party to win the primary and fight off a popular, if underfunded Republican candidate. Cuomo received 54% of the vote; however, if you look at a map the pink/red (Republican) districts far outnumber the blue (Democratic) districts – the deciding factor was 80% plus majorities for Cuomo in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx (See map here). A better funded Republican could have even narrowed the gap, and, the charter school political action dollars are a key: who controls the charter school PAC dollars and how can Cuomo prevents the dollars from flowing to a Republican candidate?  Think Eva.

The 2020 Presidential Election (Not Bernie, Not Hillary)

Friends say I’m crazy,  Cuomo isn’t “presidential material,” I demur. Cuomo is hard to place on the political spectrum. He led the “fight for 15.” actively fighting Trump on immigrant issues, pro-environment, not pro decriminalization of marihuana,  did not push the “Dreamer” bill, he does not easily fall into a place on the spectrum. After a solid win in 2018 he can burnish credentials for a 2020 run for the White House. Andrew will not “leave the plane on the runway” – See Mario anecdote here.

Attacks from the Left

Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and a political neophyte received 34% of the vote in the 2014 September Democratic gubernatorial primary; the left wing of the Democratic Party was clearly unhappy with Cuomo in 2014 and there are rumblings of challenges next year. Cynthia Nixon, a popular actor and activist, and, a very strong public school parent/activist is considering running. Will the Sanders voters support a political neophyte? Will the Working Families Party deny Cuomo an endorsement?

Will the teachers union remain on the sidelines?

In 2014 NYSUT, the NYS teachers union did not make an endorsement, and, a few Long Island locals endorsed Teachout in the primary. Yes, Cuomo leans toward charter schools; however, he provided the largest increase in state education dollars, shows no interest in reviving the reviled APPR test-scored based teacher evaluation plan and appears to be in sync with the Regents in implementing the 2015 Cuomo Commission recommendations.(Read here). NYSUT has a new leadership that has had a brief and fractious relationship with the governor, members don’t love him, on the other hand staying on the sidelines is like kissing your sister, satisfying for neither party.

Can any Democrat afford to “stay on the sidelines” or vote for a third party?

Yes, Cuomo tilts, or leans, or outright supports charter schools, can any democrat afford to not vote, perhaps to facilitate the election of a Republican?  Then again, Pataki, a Republican preceded Cuomo and served for three terms (twelve years). A current-day Republican governor would not only be pro charter, s/he would also be pro voucher, anti-tenure and also support sharp restrictions on increases in property taxes. Rationally, Democrats would appear to have no place to go but support Cuomo, voters are not rational. How many democrats voted for Jill Stein instead of Hillary?  Did the Stein voters tip the scales for Trump?

I know too many teachers who are lifelong democrats who simply say they cannot “pull the lever,” excuse me, “bubble in the box” for Cuomo.

Cuomo’s flirtation with Eva may end badly; yes. he may prevent charter dollars from flowing to an Republican opponent, on the other hand, he may have alienated many “irrational” democratic voters.

Brief affairs frequently don’t end well.

Read a lengthy article in Politico musing over the end of education reform in New York and the role of Cuomo here

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Cuomo versus Teachout: Do You Know Anyone Who’s Voting for Andrew Cuomo?

If you’re reading this blog you might not know anyone who is voting for Andrew Cuomo.

Teachers abhor the Governor.

The 2% property tax cap has both led to an endless succession of budget cuts in the low wealth districts and made it extremely difficult to negotiate contracts around the state. The teacher evaluation law was driven by Cuomo, the rejection of the de Blasio plan to establish a tax base for the pre-k initiative and his recent unabashed support of charter schools over the objection of the New York City mayor has angered teachers.

The enormous drop in the Common Core state tests angered parents across the state.

The New York Times did not make an endorsement; neither did the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the powerful 600,000 member union.

Yet pollsters brush Teachout aside.

Capital New York writes,

The consensus estimate among Albany’s political professionals seems to be that Teachout will win around 20 percent of the vote, plus or minus five points. There has always been liberal dissatisfaction with Cuomo—the governor casts himself as a Solomonic centrist who can get things done in once-chaotic Albany—which, generically, is worth about a quarter of the electorate.

After some prompts, a private poll taken by the Working. Families Party to judge support for a Teachout stand-in—a fictional candidate named Teresa Woodstock—gauged support for a left-flank Cuomo challenger at 23 percent. But that was before Teachout herself began to run for anything.

The governor’s campaign is now trying to set a higher mark for Teachout. A Cuomo official told the Buffalo News earlier this week that “any protest candidate is going to get in the low- to mid-high 20s,” and the paper reported “Cuomo operatives were suggesting Teachout could get as much as 30 percent of the vote.”

The Times Union agrees,

Political handicappers, however, predict she’ll garner between 20 and 30 percent of the vote
Against Cuomo, Teachout has “the potential not to beat him, not to even come close, but to embarrass him,” said Mickey Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll…

Larry Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies, backed that up. “Twenty or 30 percent wouldn’t be shocking, but it also wouldn’t mean anything,” he said. ” … So few people will be involved in this election that, short of an outright upset, it will tell you very little about her strength and very little about (Cuomo’s) weaknesses.”

The Working Families Party (WFP) in New York State is in reality the far left wing of the Democratic Party. The WFC is funded by labor unions, primarily 1199 (hospital and health care workers) and 32 BJ (workers in apartment buildings – janitors, etc.). In local elections, both primaries and in general elections the WFP both endorse candidates and provides boots on the ground. Zephyr Teachout was seeking the WFP endorsement – she would have led a third party slate in the general, the November election. Cuomo, and the unions, twisted arms to defeat Teachout at the WFP convention – she did get 42% of the delegates. She then sought to oppose Cuomo in the Democratic primary on September 9th. Surprisingly she collected the requisite number of petition signature and survived challenges by Cuomo’s legal team.

Teachout’s problem is a lack of dollars – I’ve received five mailing from Cuomo and three robo calls, one robo call from Teachout. The sages expect the usual low turnout in primary elections – maybe 500- 750,000 of the five million plus possible voters. Upstate Teachout is virtually invisible, and, many Democrats are right of center and support the property tax cap.

I was at a teacher meeting a few weeks ago and the teachers were enthusiastically supporting Teachout – I asked my normal baseline question: are you a registered democrat? The young teacher informed me anyone can vote in a primary – it was useless to argue – he was convinced – and what could an old guy like me know? Of course New York State law requires primary voters to be registered in their party a year before the date of the primary.

Andrew Cuomo is the anti-politician – his website, each and every day, lists “The Governor will be in New York City (or Albany) with no public schedule.” He never gives interviews, he gives highly scripted speeches and he’s despised by members of the state legislature. He rules Albany with an iron hand. He is a social liberal and an economic conservative, sort of. Every policy he supports or opposes seems to be poll driven, to be driven by a careful look at the route to the democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Don’t scoff.

If Hillary decides not to run, who would be the democratic candidate? Is Elizabeth Warren too far to the left? Is Jerry Brown too old? Is there a Clinton-like democrat hiding in the South or the Midwest? A Governor? How about a socially liberal, economic conservative? And, Zephyr Teachout may be standing in the way of a run for the presidency.

Does Teachout have a chance?

It’s up to you … it’s up to the voters … and if enough teachers, parents and WFPer loyalists trek to the polls … who knows?

And, besides, Zephyr Teachout is a great name. and Teachout would reinvigorate the democratic party.