Cuomo hears from critics over ‘monopolies’ comment

Governor Cuomo at table with daughter working on homeworkEarlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies”, and push for a new round of teacher evaluations.

Cuomo also said that better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving public school system.

Now his critics are firing back.

The Working Families Party, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the two candidates vying for the gubernatorial nod with Cuomo – Republican candidate Rob Astorino and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins – all took their shots at the Governor.

Working Families Party Response

“Gov. Cuomo is wrong on this one. His proposed policies on public education will weaken, not strengthen our public education system, and they would represent a step away from the principle of high quality public education for all students. High stakes testing and competition are not the answer. Investment in the future is the answer, and that means progressive taxation and adequate resources for our schools.

We endorsed the governor because of his commitments to raise the minimum wage, fight for public financing of elections, the full Women’s Equality Act, the DREAM Act, and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. But we’ll never hesitate to criticize him when he’s wrong, as he is on this issue. A vote on the WFP line for Governor is a vote to get those crucial progressive policies passed and to strengthen the WFP.”

The Alliance for Quality Education Response

The Alliance for Quality Education’s designated Champions of Education in the New York State Senate, Assembly and New York City Council joined in the chorus of community and school superintendent responses to Gov. Cuomo’s vow on Tuesday to break the public schools “monopolies” and replace them with more privately-run charter schools.

“I find it unacceptable that Governor Cuomo would further disempower and denigrate our public schools,” said State Senator Bill Perkins. “Saying that there should be more competition among schools—to break a so-called public monopoly—is his way of imposing heedless private business practices on these august institutions that have served our citizens well for more than a century. Furthermore, charter schools perpetuate a system of educational inequality and have ushered in a new generation of separate but unequal outcomes in education. Governor Cuomo’s own words—sadly, lead us to believe that profit and privatization is more important to him than serving every child in the state with excellence.”

“It is troubling to read that the Governor, just days before the election, is blaming teachers again, and is now slamming the ‘public’ in public education in favor of increased privatization via charter schools,” Assembly member Patricia Fahy said. “By definition, public schools serve all children, including all those who cycle in and out of charter and other private schools. While accountability is essential among all teachers and in all schools, slamming a bedrock institution of our state and country – public education – while ignoring so many root causes of school failure – is simplistic at best and not constructive to moving the needle on improving education opportunities for all.”

“The Governor’s recent comments about the state of education and calling it a ‘public Monopoly’ has me gravely concern,” said Assembly member Walter Mosley. “Education is a public good, not a public monopoly. It must be treated as such, regardless of one’s family income or status, public education must be treated with a proper level of respect and regard to the general welfare of our society.”

“As a father and grandfather whose children have attended our public schools, investment in public education and support for public schools is critical. This is not the time to attack public schools but to strengthen them,” said Assembly member Felix W. Ortiz. “I pledge to fight for more state aid to public schools next year. Our future is at stake.”

“I am not surprised that Governor Cuomo supports attempts to privatize schools to benefit hedge fund billionaires,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “These Wall Street fat cats may raise him the most money but public education isn’t a business. If Governor Cuomo actually spent time in the NYC public schools, he would learn that there is no independent assessment that says that charter schools perform better than public schools. He should do something constructive for public education for a change. He should demand that charter schools are held accountable. He should stop charter schools from evading public oversight despite receiving millions in taxpayer money. He should stop charter schools from failing to properly educate English language learners and special education students. And he should seek to end problematic conflicts of interest between charter school board members and business interests.”

Rob Astorino’s Response

“New York public school teachers deserve respect for their day-in-and-day-out dedication to our children. I know, I have three young children in public schools; I went to public schools, and I served as an elected public school board member. My wife Sheila is a special ed teacher.

Mr. Cuomo’s adversarial stance toward teachers borders on disdain. I simply cannot understand it. All I can say is that, as governor, I will treat you, as teachers, with the respect you deserve as educational professionals, and with which I treat all public servants. We may not always agree on everything, but our goals will remain the same:

Strengthening New York’s public school system to better prepare the children we love for the future.

I am deeply committed to public schools in New York, as is my running mate Sheriff Chris Moss. Public schools are in my blood. I am also a card carrying union member, so I understand the need for and benefits of collective bargaining.

I have heard your concerns over charter schools, and I agree that accountability within them is a must. I have supported charter schools in New York’s inner cities, but I recognize that better public schools must ultimately be the answer to New York’s education challenges.

Governor Cuomo has taken millions of dollars from charter school backers and has no interest in accountability.

As a parent, first and foremost, I am committed to getting rid of Common Core in New York, and as governor, I will pull New York from the program. No K-12 teachers were involved in writing the developmentally inappropriate experimental standards; they were conceived in secrecy and never tested, and the math and English content experts on the validation committee both refused to endorse the standards saying they were of “poor quality.” We’ll replace it with better standards set by New York education experts with input from teachers and parents. And through the same approach, we’ll develop proper assessments for our students, teachers, and schools, of which testing will only be one piece of the puzzle. Our teachers are not test-giving automatons and our children are not guinea pigs. Each deserve better, and they’ll get it under my administration.

I have twice been elected by wide margins in a 2-1 Democratic county. That happened because I am willing to listen and to reach out to everyone, in a respectful manner, to find common solutions. I stand on principle, but I also understand that compromise and good will are how we move forward together as a society.

I would be honored to have your support on Tuesday. I promise you’ll have a respectful governor in me, willing to work with you honestly and constructively to protect and better New York’s public schools.”

Howie Hawkins’ Response

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said that Cuomo’s recent description of schools as the “last public monopoly” is just the latest episode in his ongoing attacks on public education and teachers.

“Andrew Cuomo is turning New York’s schools into the Hunger Games. Andrew Cuomo pushes a game of competitive grants, charter schools, and high-stakes testing. This type of competition leaves a lot of losers. If the Governor wants to break a monopoly, he should break Pearson’s monopoly on testing.”

“What is Cuomo going to attack after he breaks the schools and teachers? Break up the police and fire departments? Have competing companies to deliver drinking water?” asked Hawkins.

Hawkins noted that under Cuomo funding for education has fallen to the lowest percentage of the state budget in 65 years, with a $9 billion cumulative shortfall from what the courts have ordered. He has also enacted tax caps to undermine the ability of local schools districts to make up for the state’s funding shortfall.

Cuomo has also led a drive to privatize the schools, favoring charter schools and promoting high stakes testing, both of which increase profits for his campaign contributors. Last week he vowed to challenge public school teachers by supporting stricter teacher evaluations and competition from charter schools.

“A governor who treats public education as some corporate entity, who shows no support for public education doesn’t deserve a second term. The remarks made clear that Cuomo is an enemy of our public education system. And that he wants to break it,” added Hawkins.

Hawkins said that Cuomo’s recent statement was part of a pattern of increasingly erratic behavior by Cuomo in the closing days of the campaign, starting with his mishandling of the Ebola epidemic. Cuomo earlier today dismissed the Moreland Commission scandal as “political baloney.”

“One has to wonder why a party like the WFP wants you to vote for a candidate that attacks workers and education, opposes making the rich pay their fair share of taxes, waffles on fracking, does photo ops in war zones during his campaign, and doesn’t support universal single payer health care,” commented Hawkins.

Hawkins has been endorsed by a wide range of teachers union and educators, include Diane Ravitch; Nassau County’s East Williston Teachers’ Association; northern Westchester County’s Lakeland Federation of Teachers; Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, Valley Central Teachers Association, Buffalo Teachers Federation, The Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers.; New York Badass Teacher Association, United Opt Out Independent Community of Educators, Independent Commission on Public Education (ICOPE), and Coalition for Public Education.

Cuomo vows to break up school ‘monopoly’ if re-elected

Gov. CuomoAt a Daily News editorial board meeting earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to break up “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” and push for a new round of teacher evaluations should he be re-elected.

Cuomo said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revitalize an underachieving public school 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 to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly,” he said.

On the topic of teacher evaluations, Cuomo said he would push for 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. I feel exactly opposite.”

Predictably, the teachers unions fired back. Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers, called Cuomo’s comments “an unfortunate distraction” from addressing the real issues plaguing education, like poverty and fair funding.

“Public education is not a monopoly,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said. “It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great. Reclaiming the promise of public education should be our singular focus.”

“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization,” executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”

Two years ago, Cuomo successfully backed a new evaluation system tying teacher performance to the Common Core Learning Standards testing results. Due to a sloppy roll out though, the implementation for some of those standards was delayed for two years.

“If you said Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers’ evaluations and what should be done?” Cuomo said at the time.

Just this month, Cuomo launched an ad campaign centered around education, that featured him sitting at his kitchen table helping his daughter Michaela with her homework. In the commercial, Cuomo calls for a five-year moratorium on using Common Core test scores. Just a few weeks later, he’s calling for tougher teacher evaluations and promoting charter schools.

With less than a week to go before Election Day, both Cuomo, and his gubernatorial challenger, Rob Astorino, seem to be turning up the heat on the issue of education.

Smart Schools Commission releases report

When New York voters head to the polls next Tuesday, in addition to candidates for office, they will decide on a $2 billion Smart Schools bond referendum that would provide each school district with funding for new educational technology and infrastructure improvements that could also include classroom space for prekindergarten programs.

Yesterday, the Smart Schools Commission, assembled by Gov. Cuomo to gather information on strategies for how schools can most effectively invest proceeds from the proposed bond, released a 56-page report, accompanied by the commission’s seven “Keys to Success” summary.

Throughout the past several months, the Smart Schools Commission has elicited input from hundreds of parents, teachers, students, administrators and private sector stakeholders through a series of three public symposiums in Albany, Buffalo and New York City, as well as from various meetings and feedback submitted through the Smart Schools website.

At each symposium, panelists presented to the Commission case studies, current projects and possibilities that included: enriching the in-classroom learning experience by incorporating the use of tablets, laptops and smart phones; extending preparation for student instruction by using web-based software accessible at home; increasing communication between the instructor and student’s guardian; providing more descriptive academic progress reporting; and, importantly, to support these changes, building a robust network of high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity throughout New York’s public schools and communities.

The Smart Schools Commission today noted to the Governor that many of these main themes are incorporated into their recommendations. In concert with these themes, the Commission has summarized its findings in seven “Keys to Success” that can serve as a guide for school districts considering the use of Smart Schools funds, should the Bond Act be approved by voters. The seven “Keys to Success” recommend that districts:

1. Embrace and expand online learning which will break down geographic barriers, provide access to the best sources of instruction in the world, and level the playing field for students in rural and smaller school districts.
2. Utilize transformative technologies, such as tablets, laptops, and interactive whiteboards to deliver differentiated instruction tailored to students’ specific abilities and needs that lets them learn and advance at their own pace.
3. Connect every school to high-speed broadband using technology that is capable of scaling up over time and deliver sufficient wireless capability to serve every student.
4. Extend connectivity beyond the four walls of the classroom so students from all backgrounds have equal access to the information superhighway.
5. Provide high-quality, continuous professional development to teachers, principals, and staff to ensure successful integration of technology into the teaching and learning experience.
6. Focus on in-demand STEM skills to ensure that students graduate with 21st century skills.
7. Plan, plan and plan again.

You can click here to read the full report, and here for a calculator of how much each school district would be eligible to receive.

SFOS: Manufacturing week brings awareness to careers, programs

Stories_schools“We’re on our way to a total commitment to manufacturing,” Congressman Paul Tonko stated in his opening remarks to an audience at miSci on Oct. 8 “Let us be reminded that manufacturing is not dirty … it’s safe, sustainable, and indeed it’s surging.”

The event was a panel discussion focused on the future of modern manufacturing education. As part of Schenectady’s Manufacturing Week, local education leaders – including Mohonasen Central School District Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Spring – came together to talk about the regional job market, the need for more skilled labor, and how through a partnership, Mohonasen, BOCES and Schenectady County Community College are poised to offer students new and different opportunities. Read more about this here.

Also during Manufacturing Week, Mohonasen and Capital Region BOCES students were able to tour local manufacturing facilities – STS Steel, Applied Robotics, Gatherer’s Granola and Greno Industries. Students and teachers also showcased a variety of exciting Mohonasen and BOCES programs – machining, welding, music production, journalism, athletic training, nanotechnology, robotics, alternative energy, etc. – at both the Oct. 8 event at miSci, and at an open house at Mohonasen High School on Oct. 9.

“Thinking outside the box, we’ve developed new programs that will give our students real-world training that will prepare them for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs,” Mohonasen Board of Education President Dominic Cafarelli said at the Manufacturing Week kick-off press conference on Oct. 3.

Watch this video overview of all the week had to offer students.

NY Board of Regents approves new graduation standards to better prepare students for the future

Earlier today, the New York State Board of Regents approved new options for students to meet the State’s high school graduation requirements. The new regulations establish multiple, comparably rigorous pathways to graduation, including pathways in Career and Technical Education (CTE); Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); the Arts; Biliteracy (languages other than English); and the Humanities. The new regulations also establish a two-year Global History and Geography course requirement and modify the design of the Global History and Geography Regents Exam.  

Check out NYSED’s video explaining the changes.

News and reactions from around NY: (we’ll be updating as coverage continues)


Friday Rundown: 10.10.14

Good morning and let us be among the first to wish you a happy Columbus Day Weekend. In the news this week: NYSUT, Common Core in relation to improving SAT scores and inadequate funding for upstate schools. If you missed anything, we have you covered. Here’s your Rundown.

In Common Core transition, N.Y. looks to Kentucky (Capital New York)

Pearson’s wrong answer — and why it matters in the high-stakes testing era (Washington Post)

Schools in ‘limbo’ as Cuomo ponders evaluation bill (Capital New York)

Tisch, school groups lukewarm to Cuomo bond proposal (Capital New York)

NYSUT gets permission to intervene in tenure case (Capitol Confidential)…Teachers union challenges ‘gag order’ (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Study on upstate school funding (Albany Times Union)…Statewide #wecantwait education campaign hits home (Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin)

Parents have rights in children’s education (Times Herald Record)

Study: New York preschool push benefits wealthier families first (Washington Post)

Opinion: Regents should OK new path to careers (Utica Observer Dispatch)

SAT scores for Class of 2014 show no improvement (Washington Post)…Tisch: Common Core will boost students’ SAT scores (Capital New York)

Campaign calls on Cuomo to sign bill to allow CPR lessons in schools (WTEN)

NYSUT: State Ed ban on discussing tests violates free speech

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has filed suit in federal court against the State Education Department, arguing that the state is infringing on teachers’ First Amendment right to free speech by restricting them from discussing their concerns about specific questions on standardized tests.

“How can you learn from a test that you can’t talk about?” asked NYSUT officials. Under state law and policy, discussing the material on the exams is actually a punishable offense. You can read NYSUT’s press release on the lawsuit here.

News coverage

SFOS: “We Believe”

Stories_schoolsToday’s Stories from our Schools entry comes to us from the Cohoes City School district, where administrators, faculty and staff at Cohoes High School are taking a new approach to support academic success and encourage students to set and achieve personal goals through the “We believe” campaign.

“We believe” is the beginning of a statement. Whether it’s a broad statement such as, ‘We believe you can do this,’ or ‘we believe you can graduate,’ or a specific statement for just one student, we want students to know that the Cohoes High School community believes in them,” said Co-principal Joseph Rajczak.

To introduce the campaign, notable Cohoes High School alumni were interviewed for a video message that was shared with all ninth grade students during transition activities as students came back to school in September.

You can read more about the “We Believe” campaign on the Cohoes City School District’s website.

Friday Rundown 10.3.14

A good Friday morning to you – the first Friday in October! Here’s what you may have missed in education headlines this week.

State officials discuss changes in Regents format (Glens Falls Post Star)

Assemblyman James Skoufis: Stop balancing budgets on the backs of our children (Skoufis press release)

Cuomo announces $22.4 million education grant for NYS (

New York tax system is archaic (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

State judge tosses challenge to NY tax cap (Press Connects)

How much time will new Common Core tests take kids to finish? Quite a lot. (Washington Post)

Superintendents share classroom tech successes (Capital New York)

Rethinking the 
high school diploma (Education Next)

In your opinion: New school snacks will help children (The Daily Star)

U.S. Department of Education announces 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools (

18 NY schools awarded national “Blue Ribbon” status

On Sept. 30, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized 337 schools – 18 from New York – as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2014 based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

The Department will honor 287 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 10-11 in Washington, D.C.

“These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American education—that all students, no matter their name or zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative, and challenging learning environments,” Secretary Duncan said.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

All schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates are also at the highest levels.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates for each subgroup are at high levels.

“National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student,” Duncan said.

2014 New York Blue Ribbon Schools

Voorheesville Elementary School
Voorheesville Central School District
Principal: Thomas Reardon

Ledgeview Elementary School
Clarence Central School District
Principal: Keith E. Kuwik

Cobbles Elementary School
Penfield Central School District
Principal: Donald Bavis

Genesee Community Charter School
Principal: Lisa A. Wing

Munsey Park Elementary School
Manhasset Union Free School District
Principal: Jean Kendall

Glenwood Landing Elementary School
North Shore Central School District
Principal: Bridget Finder

PS 150
New York City Geographic District # 2
Principal: Jennifer Bonnet

South Bronx Classical Charter School
Principal: Lester Long

PS 11 Purvis J Behan
New York City Geographic District #13
Principal: Alonta Wrighton

PS 254 Dag Hammarskjold
New York City Geographic District #22
Principal: Linda Alhonote

Queens College School For Math, Science & Technology New York City Geographic District #25
Principal: Helene Jacob

PS 205 Alexander Graham Bell
New York City Geographic District #26
Principal: Karen Scott-Piazza

Deerfield Elementary School
Whitesboro CSD
Principal: Kelli McGowan

Enders Road Elementary School
Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District
Principal: Deborah Capri

Franklin Avenue School
Pearl River Union Free School District
Principal: Maureen Alaimo

Hillside Elementary School
Niskayuna Central School District
Principal: Shireen Fasciglione

East Moriches Elementary School
East Moriches Union Free School District
Principal: Charles T. Russo

Carrie E. Tompkins School
Croton-Harmon UFSD
Principal: Kelly Maloney