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NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Repulsive, But Not Stupid

December 18, 2014

Prior to his reelection as governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo promised to “break” the public school “monopoly.” He stated that he “likes charter schools” because he believes they introduce competition.

Cuomo also promised what he terms “a more rigorous [teacher] evaluation system.”

Of course, his real goal is to replace public schools with charter schools. This is the only goal that makes sense if Cuomo is not a moron– and he is not.

He is simply keeping his promise to those who matter to him: Financial backers. Cuomo is backed by major money, “shrewdly” spent— including one million from a single hedge fund manager.

No, Cuomo is no moron– in fact, the link above details how Cuomo has managed a never-ceasing political campaign in which even the mention of his name is akin to strategic product placement.

Cuomo wants charter schools in New York, and in order to make that happen, he needs to capitalize on any opportunities to paint traditional public schools and their career teachers as failures– all the while deflecting information that contributes to a negative image of New York charter schools.

Let us consider New York State’s 2012-13 and 2013-14 assessments supposedly aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

There is no marked, across-the-board difference between New York charter schools and those “monopolistic” traditional public schools for Cuomo to use as leverage for undermining the non-hedge-fund-supported, traditional public schools statewide. (View NYS test score spreadsheets here, and click here for info on NYC charter scores– a mixed bag limited by data available on returning students only.)

So, Cuomo ignores the issue of no stellar statewide charter lead on the NYS CCSS tests and instead focuses on the low NYS student scores in general.

He must blame teachers– which must include charter school teachers– though Cuomo glosses over this distinction.

Cuomo’s solution involves pushing for tougher teacher evaluation— the sooner the better.

That’ll make teaching less of a profession and more of a turnstile, which is how it tends to be at charter schools. (See this link for NYC charter teacher turnover.) Teach for America (TFA) has glamorized the concept of charter school teacher attrition.

Ironically, TFA itself will be leaving NYC for a lack of fresh, young, temp-teacher recruits.

But back to Cuomo and his career-teacher blame game:

As Cuomo places blame for test results based on cut scores ultimately set by a single man, New York State Education Department (NYSED) Commissioner John King after the testing has already occurred, NY Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch stands by Cuomo:

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said the state’s teacher evaluations, which were mostly based on test scores and classroom observations, still have a long way to go.

“The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system,” she said. “There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated.”

Compare Tisch’s words in December 2014 to her words in August 2014:

“The test scores show that students from all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress,” Tisch said.  “This is still a transition period.  It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in the test scores. But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state. When school districts focus on providing the resources and professional development teachers need, their students do better.  Parents want the best education possible for their children, and the tests are one of multiple measures we need to make sure we’re moving in that direction.”

Tisch is singing the “we’re making progress, but let’s go ahead and slam the teachers since Cuomo wants it” song.

Here is where it gets dicey for Tisch: She is publicly advocating for tougher teacher evaluation criteria even as she excused herself as a rubber stamp, denying her own role in allowing authorization of the Greater Works Charter School to fraudulently-credentialed Ted J. Morris, Jr., only one month prior.

When confronted with the shabby job she did in investigating Morris’ credentials before approving him as lead applicant to run a Rochester charter, Tisch readily shifted blame to NYSED– led by King.

Amazingly, King is being removed from NYSED and promoted to another level of incompetence, and in suitable company: He will be joining so-called US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in an “appointed” position in January 2015.

The timing is highly suspect, given that King publicly embarrassed Cuomo’s charter love with approval of Morris, whose resume one could easily shred in five minutes via Google.

New York State refuses to regulate charter spending of public funds, an attitude in keeping with Tisch’s and King’s charter approval incompetence.

And what happens to incompetent NYSED Commissioner King?

He gets “promoted”… sort of.

King’s USDOE “appointment” sadly reeks of finding a place to put a loser so that his punishment is not so publicly obvious as to clearly demonstrate NYSED (and Regents) incompetence when it comes to supposedly “rigorous” approval of the charters that are supposed to shame the “public school monopoly.”

King is on his way out as NYSED commissioner, and the same Tisch who blamed King for fraudulent Morris’ charter approval publicly praises King’s leadership three weeks later:

“John King has been a remarkable leader in a time of true reform,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “He spent every moment working to open the doors of opportunity for all our students…..

“John has transformed teaching and learning, raising the bar for students and helping them clear that bar. In classrooms all across the state, teachers and students are rising to the challenge of higher standards. The positive impact of John King’s work in New York will be felt for generations. We’ll miss his wisdom, his calm leadership and his remarkable courage. But New York’s loss is the country’s gain. He’ll be a powerful force for educational opportunity in Washington.”

It’s amazing how impending exit repackages “incompetent” as “remarkable.”

Now that King is to exit NYSED in January, Tisch needs to rectify her self-declared role as his rubber stamp of charter approval. As such, her Regents has strategically refused to renew NYC charters.

Cuomo has declared wanting more charters, and King and Tisch were delivering. However, their sloppiness in approval caught up with them in just too public an embarrassment.

Time for Cuomo to refocus his incredibly-funded, continuous political campaign.

Just blame teachers.

As Cuomo knows, the truth has nothing to do with it.


Schneider is author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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  1. I’ve asked this question before but what does Cuomo and all the other people, who think teaching should just be a turn style job, think all those career teachers are going to do if they lose their jobs, due to their financial/political manipulation of the public education system? Where are they going to get work? Career teachers were educated to become lifelong teachers and absolutely nothing else. They are not administrative assistants, accountants, welders, politicians…they are teachers. Most of them started talking teaching classes freshman year of college, unlike other so-called teachers who only get 5 weeks of training. Do all these financial wizards really want, literally, tens of thousands of teachers on the dole?

    • Cuomo is pushing a bad business model, one that wants the cheapest worker. De-professionalized teachers can be forced to become cheap labor in their desperation for employment.

  2. permalink

    Good morning Dr. Schneider, THANK YOU!! Your research and writing is invaluable to us CCSS warriors. This is getting the attention of some otherwise misinformed and apathetic parents…

    My goal is to piece together all of the documents to trace the data flow and PII. Then, use this to make a comprehensive video and give presentations.

    Also, I’m not clear/ Is the local BOE (now regionalizing) work for the SBOE or parents, students, teachers of their districts? What CAN the local BOE’s do? Examples: 1) File formal complaints 2) give a vote of “no confidence” to CCSS, SBOE etc… 3) remove info from their website that was supplied by sources with conflicts of interest. Replace with factual info. 4) issue public statement of their concerns 5) issue public statement letting parents know that children are participating in an experiment & being data mined 6) pass a resolution 7) decline CCSS aligned curriculum that is deemed inappropriate, biased etc…

    Are there any if these that the BOE could be obligated to do?

    Thank you for considering the points of gathering data flow documentation for presentations and the role of the (disappearing) local BOE.

    Grateful for your commitment, Cheryl Hill New Milford, CT


    • Hi, Cheryl. All of your suggestions for districts registering CCSS discontent could place cumulative pressure on the state. The state might tell districts that they are obligated, but then ask the state to supply justification for any obligation. Sometimes local boards must just decide to stand against the state on the grounds that what the state is requiring is not good for children.

      It is also important to secure the assistance of local and state elected officials in your efforts, if possible. Also important to provide an organized outlet for the newly-enlightened parents. parents are an important force in prodding reluctant districts and states to pay attention. Parents can apply unpleasant pressure by appealing to the media– including contacting local news personalities and writing letters to the editor.

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