Governor Andrew Cuomo, who once promised to be a lobbyist for students, is in reality a lobbyist for charter schools, which enroll about 3% of the state’s students.
He is not a lobbyist for the other 97%, whose schools are cutting their budgets because of Cuomo’s tax cap.
How could this be?
Geoff Decker of Chalkbeat, a New York City’s nonpartisan education blog, explains Cuomo’s close connection with the super-wealthy financiers of the charter schools in New York City.
Decker reviewed campaign filings and reports:
Cuomo’s reelection bid has so far received nearly $400,000 from a cadre of wealthy supporters of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter School network, according to an updated tally of newly-released campaign filings. Some money has even come from Moskowitz’s political action committee, Great Public Schools, which has given $65,000 to Cuomo since 2011.
But that’s not all.
By one tally of the 2014 filings, Cuomo racked up at least $800,000 in donations from 27 bankers, real estate executives, business executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have flocked to charter schools and other education causes in recent years.
Many of these financiers are part of a group called “Democrats for Education Reform,” which represents hedge-fund managers and equity investors, who are in turn dedicated to charter schools, privatization, and evaluating teachers by test scores (unless they teach in charter schools!). DFER is no friend of public education. Only charters.
When Cuomo first decided to run for governor, he discovered he could not raise any money from Wall Street unless he first met with Joe Williams, the executive director of DFER (pronounced D-FER). Williams told him that the requirement for any campaign contributions was loyalty to the charter school cause, and voila! In Washington, D.C., DFER is close to the Obama administration, and its executive director in that office used to a top assistant to George Miller, the California Democratic congressman who headed the House Education Committee and who was a favorite of DFER.
According to the story in the New York Times in 2010:
Wall Street has always put its money where its interests and beliefs lie. But it is far less common that so many financial heavyweights would adopt a social cause like charter schools and advance it with a laserlike focus in the political realm.
Hedge fund executives are thus emerging as perhaps the first significant political counterweight to the powerful teachers unions, which strongly oppose expanding charter schools in their current form.
After hearing from Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Williams arranged an 8 a.m. meeting last month at the Regency Hotel, that favorite spot for power breakfasts, between Mr. Cuomo and supporters of his committee, Democrats for Education Reform, who include the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.