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Friday, March 14, 2014

Coming Together in the Big Apple: Defying Cuomo's "Two-State" Re-election Strategy

Polls show Governor Andrew Cuomo's New York City approval rating at 68% (as of 2/18/14 when this was originally posted).  With the City seemingly in his pocket, perhaps, he thinks he can "cold shoulder" it, along with its new mayor.  He falsely identifies the interests of the City as at odds with the interests of the State and, by so doing, hopes to gain upstate support.

Keeping this political strategy of divide and conquer in mind, it is of the utmost importance that New York State strongly COME TOGETHER.

1.  Universal Pre-K

Cuomo has been a constant thorn in the side of De Blasio's universal pre-K plan.  De Blasio has proposed funding the plan by increasing income taxes for city residents earning in excess of $500,000 per year, amounting to, in his words, the "cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks."  I'm sure this will not exactly please the wealthiest, but it seems far from draconian, and its benefits seem potentially enormous.

In taking aim at De Blasio's plan, Governor Cuomo couches his objections under the guise of protecting pre-K interests outside the City.  According to his screwy logic, since NYC has more than its fair share of millionaires, pre-K will thrive there whilst it will flounder outside the City.  Under Cuomo's proposal of a five-year, $1.5 billion state-funded pre-K, taxes need not be raised and millionaires need not pinch pennies to pay.  And, what better way for millionaires to applaud this plan than to open their pocketbooks to the Governor's fund for re-election?

Cuomo's scheme seems mad as a hatter.  If guaranteeing pre-K was really Cuomo's bottom line, he would invite the City to tax itself and use much of his magical $1.5 billion state fund to secure the same for residents outside the City.

At the same time, under Cuomo's new budget plan, 84% of Long Island schools will get less state money than six years ago.

2.  NYC and the Minimum Wage

De Blasio proposed allowing NYC to set its own, higher, minimum wage given the costs of living in this City.  Again, the Governor objected.  He asserted that such a policy could lead to a "chaotic situation" by pitting some communities against each other.  He said, "We are also one state and we don't want to cannibalize ourselves."  It seems he fears companies might up and move to areas where the minimum wage is lowest.  I find it more likely that, given Cuomo's intransigence, more minimum-wage workers in the City will up and be moved out of their homes.

Moreover, Cuomo has already defied his own logic by putting some divergent economic policies in place, including a preferential tax-free status for approved businesses located on or near certain state university campuses. 

3.  Charter Schools

Cuomo has met privately with charter-school leaders, including NYC Charter School Center CEO James Merriman.  In opposition to De Blasio's policies, Cuomo has come out strongly in favor of charter schools.  Is it any surprise that according to the NY Post, "board members at the growing Success Academy, which runs 22 charters in the city, have given $375,367 to Cuomo's re-election campaign--including $90,000 since de Blasio won the mayor's race last year"?  Cuomo spoke before the pro-charter DFER in November and came away with $250,000 for his campaign.  In January, DFER followed up with $14,000 more through its PAC.

4.  APPR Teacher Evaluation System and Death by the Common Core

There is no merit in Cuomo's "stick-to-your-guns" backing of the controversial APPR teacher evaluation system.  There have been too many instances of this type of junk science flying in the face of logic as well as sound principles of education.  With demented test makers designing Common-Core tests with cut scores aimed to fail 70% of the state's children, the APPR law must be gunning for a massacre of pedagogical staff.  Perhaps Cuomo hopes to win the approval of teachers by holding out the promise of $20,000 in merit pay.  Where I have seen merit-pay invoked, however, I have seen education take a nose dive into the realm of unutterable ugliness.  For my part, I hope he takes his stack of $big bills and shoves it into statewide pre-K.


I hope Cuomo's political pandering to the most privileged and his policies of divide and conquer will meet the same fate as that of 70%  of our state's students on their most recent Common-Core tests.  I hope New York State can come together in identifying the true interests of the majority.  I hope New York State can "Come Together, Right Now!"

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