Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Zephyr Teachout, who is opposing Governor Cuomo in the New York Democratic primary, explained her strong opposition to the Common Core standards, which Cuomo supports.

She writes:

“Common Core forces teachers to adhere to a narrow set of standards, rather than address the personal needs of students or foster their creativity. That’s because states that have adopted the standards issue mandatory tests whose results are improperly used to grade a teacher’s skill and even to determine if he or she keeps their job. These tests have created enormous and undue stress on students, and eroded real teaching and real learning. What’s more, there’s sound reason to question whether these standards even measure the right things or raise student achievement. No doubt, many teachers have found parts of the standards useful in their teaching, but there is a big difference between optional standards offered as support, and standards foisted on teachers regardless of students’ needs.

“Widespread outrage from teachers and parents has led Gov. Cuomo to tweak the rules around the implementation of the Common Core and call for a review of the rollout. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not addressed the real problem with Common Core.

“The fundamental issue is not the technicalities of how the standards are implemented. It is not even that Gov. Cuomo allowed this regime even as he was stripping schools of basic funding, leading class sizes to swell and forcing schools to slash programs in art and extra help. The root problem with Common Core is that it is undemocratic. It is a scheme conceived and heavily promoted by a handful of distant and powerful actors. Here in New York, it was adopted with insufficient input from local teachers, parents, school boards or students, the very people whose lives it so profoundly affects.

“Bill Gates’ coup is part of a larger coup we’re living through today – where a few moneyed interests increasingly use their wealth to steer public policy, believing that technocratic expertise and resources alone should answer vexing political questions. Sometimes their views have merit, but the way these private interests impose their visions on the public – by overriding democratic decision-making – is a deep threat to our democracy. What’s more, this private subversion of public process has come at the precise time when our common institutions, starved of funds, are most vulnerable. But by allowing private money to supplant democracy, we surrender the fate of our public institutions to the personal whims of a precious few.”

Teachout concludes:

“As did the founding generation in America, I believe public education is the infrastructure of democracy. The best public education is made democratically, in the local community: when parents, teachers, and administrators work together to build and refine the education models and standards right for our children.”

A blogger has been looking for Governor Cuomo’s running mate. It seems she is a strong supporter of gun rights but not a friend to immigrants. The trick for Cuomo is to let her talk in conservative districts upstate but keep her under wraps in New York City and the liberal suburbs.

Perdido Street School writes:

“Where in the world is former US Rep. Kathy Hochul?

“The one-time Buffalo-area congresswoman known for her strong support of gun ownership rights and her fervid opposition to giving state privileges to illegal aliens has all but disappeared from public view since Gov. Cuomo picked her in May as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

“Key state Democrats told The Post that Cuomo has ordered Hochul “kept under wraps,’’ in the words of one, to prevent her more conservative views from upending his re-election campaign among liberal New York City Democrats, especially Hispanics.

“No extended interviews, no press conferences, no TV or radio appearances, no nothing. It’s like she’s under lock and key,’’ said a senior elected Democrat.

“Hochul, who received a top rating from the National Rifle Association when she ran for Congress and strongly opposed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s efforts to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens when she was Erie County clerk, was chosen by Cuomo as part of his aggressive effort to win over Western New York voters.”

John Ogozokak, a high school teacher in upstate New York, ponders here which is the more meaningful task: to clean a septic tank or to grade a standardized test:

About a half dozen years ago the septic tank lurking beside our old farmhouse went kerflooey. I dug out the top of the rusty thing and it was clear something VERY wrong had happened. I’ll spare you the graphic details but suffice to say I had to rig up a temporary pipe until the experts could arrive days later. It was a smelly, nasty job. But as I was standing there, ankle deep in crap under a beautiful spring sky, I found myself wondering……would I rather be doing THIS or dealing with some of the nonsense I encounter every day in school -like inflicting mindless standardized tests on students.

I vote for the septic tank. And, not just mine. No, I’d pull over and help a random stranger who was dealing with a similar plumbing disaster if it would save me from grading yet another useless test. At least I’d be accomplishing something real.

I face a similar situation this morning. I woke up about a half hour ago thinking about the ridiculous test I was forced to give my 12th grade Economics students on THEIR LAST DAY EVER in school: an economics “post-assessment” created solely with the purpose of trying to calibrate if I am a good teacher. I have to go look at the results this morning. (I refuse to count it for anything against these kids.)

The test is crap incarnate. (Cue Paul Simon’s first line in “Kodachrome”….. that song just keeps ringing in my head)

To make a long, boring story short: my high school again outsourced the production of this “assessment” to our county’s Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES.) I could have gone and helped in the construction of this nonsense. I refused since I do not want to be co-opted by this whole process…… “yes, look, teachers participated……blah, blah, blah.”

Once again, the test is crap. Outdated trivia, textbook jargon, the same old supply and demand graph about socks. I was so pissed off that after I saw the thing I stopped to visit a friend of mine who owns a business. His family works out of an old storefront and you might have seen some of their handmade products in high-end catalogues. He’s not only a super smart guy but a person I respect for his integrity and common sense. He also knows a lot more economics than me so I ran a couple of the test questions past him.

Like, for example, how many federal reserve districts are there in the United States?

Huh? We both stood there and tried to guess. Eight? Twelve? Fourteen now? WHO CARES!

I mean, is this really one of the 50 essential facts that a young adult who is entering a our deeply dysfunctional economy needs to know? The test had not one question about the scandalous burden of student loans today; nothing about the near depression these kids lived through as they innocently went through school; not a mention of the growing chasm between the wealthy and the workers that support them in this nation. (Sorry, kids, soon to be YOU doing that backbreaking work!)

I’m disgusted.

And, so Governor Cuomo decides to give some public school teachers a temporary reprieve from having their career tied to these ridiculous tests. WHO CARES?

It’s time we stop giving kids tests when we all know that some of these assessments are crap.

Zephyr Teachout is running for governor in the Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has collected more than $30 million for his campaign, much of it from Wall Street titans. At the convention of the Working Families Party last month, Cuomo won over the union leaders, who delivered the WFP endorsement to him over Teachout. She must gather 15,000 signatures on petitions by July 7 from across the state to place her on the ballot for the Democratic primary ballot on September 9.

Among other things, she wants to change the way political campaigns are funded. She says:

“Right now, the campaign funding system leads to politicians basically being beggars at the feet of oligarchs. It’s what the progressives of another era called the invisible government: the private power that sits behind public power. Politicians are not making decisions based on what they think their constituents want or even what they think is best for their constituents. They’re making decisions based on who is giving them $60,000; that’s more money than any middle-class person can afford.”

In this interview, Teachout explains why she is running and why she thinks she has a possibility of upsetting Cuomo. Her basic issues are public corruption, about which she is an expert; the environment (she opposes fracking and favors alternative sources of energy); economic development; jobs; a higher minimum wage; and education. Everyone who runs for office in New York promises to “clean up” the ethical swamp in Albany. Teachout means it.

More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education

Parents Outraged by APPR Albany Deal that Ignores the Children

The deal reached today by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature regarding minimizing the impact of Common Core test scores on teacher evaluations is a slap in the face to parents across the state who have implored them to reduce the amount of testing that children are subjected to and to improve the quality of these exams and the learning standards.

“The deal does nothing to protect students or to address poorly constructed tests, abusive testing practices or concerns about the Common Core,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out.

“While protecting teachers, this does nothing to protect our children who will continue to be subjected to the stress and damage from inappropriate curriculum, standards and exams,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

In light of this misstep, it is not surprising that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King have lost the confidence of New Yorkers. The recent Siena poll shows that only 9% of respondents say they “completely trust” Governor Cuomo to act in the best interests of our students, and only 4% completely trust Commissioner King.

“Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King have made it clear they will not heed the concerns of millions of outraged parents across the state. Their arrogance is dangerous and will only continue to hurt our children, our teachers and our schools,” said Nancy Cauthen, NYC public school parent and member of Change the Stakes.

Many New Yorkers have expressed dismay that Governor Cuomo continues to ignore the growing number of unfunded mandates, insolvent schools, and increasing poverty that public schools face, while promoting excessive and developmentally inappropriate testing practices and flawed learning standards. He has also put the interests of his wealthy contributors who support charter schools that rob public schools of resources. “Neither testing nor the Common Core will help close the achievement gap or erase the inequitable funding and inadequate conditions that plague our public schools,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent and General Manager of BAT.

“Let’s not forget that according to King and Cuomo, eight year old children will continue to sit for almost seven hours of testing over the course of six days, tests that no one can see or critique. Parents will not be fooled by token changes that do nothing to protect students from these abusive practices. Unless a moratorium directly reduces or suspends testing for students, our children will continue to suffer,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent.

Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County principal at Linden Avenue Middle School said, “As long as the NYSED and Cuomo’s education office are run by non-experts, beholden to forces bent on dismantling public education, our students will continue to be subjected to bad policies.”

“It’s time for a Governor that supports the priorities of parents, evidence-based teaching practices, and REAL learning for the students of New York,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and co-founder of NYSAPE.

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator groups throughout the state.


Governor Cuomo reached a compromise with teachers’ unions and legislators to protect teachers who received the lowest ratings on the Common Core tests. Such teachers will not be evaluated by the tests. Only 1% of the state’s teachers were rated ineffective. What this deal really means is that a meaningless and deeply flawed teacher evaluation system, cobbled together to get Race to the Top funding, is now rendered utterly meaningless.

Unfortunately for students, there is no relief from the many hours required for Common Core testing. Kids will continue to sit for three hours for each exam, plus dozens of hours of interim testing. Perhaps this is early preparation for the SAT or bar exams, starting in third grade.

Last week, I posted Dave Cunningham’s excellent response to an editorial writer at Newsday who voted against an increase in the budget of the West Babylon public schools in Long Island, where his own daughters got a great education and went on to outstanding colleges. The budget went down to defeat, and a new vote was scheduled for June 17. Because of Governor Cuomo’s tax cap of 2%, school districts need a supermajority of 60% to increase their budget to meet rising costs. One district in New York was supported by 59.9% of voters (which would be considered a landslide in an election for public office), yet the whole school district lost the vote because of the lack of a single vote to reach 60.0%.

In his letter, Dave Cunningham pointed out that the West Babylon schools had lost $4 million a year for four years due to Cuomo’s “gap elimination” program. The schools were hard-pressed to provide the same quality of education that the editorial writer’s daughters had received before in the era before budget cutting became the new normal.

The district budget came up for re-vote yesterday, and it passed easily, with a yes vote of 72.5%. Any elected official would call that a landslide. The budget that passed involved deep budget cuts: “West Babylon’s budget will raise spending 0.63 percent and taxes 1.36 percent. In trimming that budget, the district cut the equivalent of 9.9 teachers, 18 hall monitors and a number of off-site sports.”

Michael Dobie, an editorial writer at Long Island’s Newsday, wrote an opinion piece in which he explained with a certain amount of embarrassment why he voted against the school budget for the West Babylon public schools, where his daughters attended, graduated, and went on to outstanding colleges.


West Babylon asked voters to approve its budget because Governor Cuomo put a tax cap on every district in the state, and the cap can’t be raised unless at least 60% of voters approve. The budget in West Babylon was turned down. The assumption of the Cuomo tax cap is that schools will keep their costs down, but costs keep rising, so budget cuts are inevitable.


Dobie wrote (in a piece behind a paywall, sorry, so I can post only the beginning and I have no link):


What have I done?
I’ve been asking myself that a lot, after I did something for the first time since I moved to Long Island 24 years ago.
I voted against a school budget.
Until this year, I never had rejected a budget proposed by my district, West Babylon. Do it for the kids, right? But this time the district was pitching to pierce its 1.36 percent state tax cap by well more than double — in a year when taxpayers will receive state rebate checks for their tax increases when their districts stay within the cap.
So I said no, as did enough other voters to defeat the budget. My hope was that West Babylon would then turn to its teachers union — personnel costs are the bulk of every school budget — to get the savings needed to stay within the cap for the budget revote to take place June 17.
Instead, the district killed the high school bowling, gymnastics, swimming and golf teams, eliminated a bunch of clubs and activities at all grade levels, and fired 18 part-time hall monitors, among other things.
Officials saved $1.3 million and got within the cap, but look at the cost. Kids lost teams and clubs, and adults lost jobs.
I’m not naive — this is usually the way such things work out. But this is my first personal experience with the consequences of voting against a budget, and it’s distressing.
It turns out the administration didn’t believe it could ask teachers for concessions because two years ago, the union agreed to open its contract and spread out one 2.3 percent salary increase over three years. That helped the district in another difficult budget year.
But the teachers have continued to get step increases — essentially, annual longevity raises. West Babylon’s teachers are due an average 3.25 percent step increase next year, which, combined with the 0.75 salary increase, means they’ll get a 4 percent raise. Who gets a 4 percent raise these days?
Please understand, this is not a screed against teachers. It’s an argument against an unsustainable system…..


The rest of the article continues in that vein, inveighing against teachers’ pay.


Dobie thinks that the step increases for teachers must end. Period.


Dave Cunningham, a veteran teacher in the West Babylon schools, wrote to Dobie to explain why he was wrong. A native of Babylon and a graduate of its schools, Dave has taught elementary school and coached high school sports in West Babylon since 1990. Here is Dave’s letter:


Hi Mike,
I’m happy to see that some of your writing is appearing on Newsday’s pages again. In fact I’ve been meaning to contact you to see if Newsday had any interest in giving a full, honest analysis of the daily assaults on public education in our state and in our local communities. Alas, my hopes were dashed when I read your column this morning.

Newsday’s stance on public education can be summed up thusly: TEACHERS BAD! AND THEY GET SUMMERS OFF! You probably know that the chief purveyor of this nonsense is your education pointman/hachetman, John Hildebrand. He never pens a story without some part of his twisted agenda being validated. On the day of the recent budget vote, he did a great job of finding two aggrieved senior citizens, ages 79 and 81, who gave him statements to support his thesis. Who amongst us wouldn’t sympathize with elderly people living on fixed budgets, besieged by high taxes which according to Newsday, are fueled by the greed of public school teachers? I’m sure they’d make good use of a $98 check from the state. How are those checks not seen as a bribe, used to influence an election?
Had Mr. Hildebrand ventured inside of Santapogue School, (rather than using it for a convenient photo op) he would have found a thriving place where nearly 40% of our students receive free or reduced lunch. He would have seen an “international” school where ELL teachers perform daily miracles with children who speak one of fifteen different languages. Had he spoken with parents and teachers, he would have also discovered that due to the state’s gap elimination program, that West Babylon had lost about $4,000,000 in state aid per year over the last four years. Such facts don’t fit the narrative, so they’re not reported.
The overarching story that Newsday continues to neglect is the stealthy, insidious campaign to privatize public education , here and around the country. I’ll leave it to you to do some research for yourself, but any honest assessment of education in New York will show that NYSED is slowly and quietly outsourcing its authority, its operations, and its soul to the British conglomerate, Pearson. The truth is that the hard-working, overtaxed people of our state are seeing their money spent on tests, standards, curriculum, and materials produced by the non-educators hired by Pearson, often at minimum wage salaries. My experience has shown me that most anything that Pearson produces is either developmentally inappropriate, substandard in quality, or both. Yet the state and school districts continue to buy their products. Pearson writes the state tests, which are not “more difficult” as Newsday and other supine media outlets report. They are designed to produce failure, adding to the narrative of TEACHERS BAD! AND THEY GET SUMMERS OFF! A google search of Pearson/Campaign contributions will tell you all you need to know. Pols from both major parties have benefited from Pearson’s largesse.
Diane Ravitch’s blog, is a treasure trove of information about public education. Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post has an excellent blog which often features the work of Southside HS Principal, Carol Burris, who is one of the most sensible, articulate voices in the push back against the hostile takeover of our schools by corporate interests. There is a ton of excellent archived work on the site: If you still have anyone at Newsday who is interested in some honest, investigative reporting, (and maybe earning a Pulitizer, to boot!) please share these links with them. FOIA requests should yield information about how much school districts have been mandated and forced to spend on the implementation of Common Core and its attendant exams and assessments. In my 39 years in education I’ve never seen anything as onerous and threatening to education in this country. It’s costly, it’s wrong, and our people deserve better.
I assume that you struggled with your decision to throw the children of WB under the metaphoric bus. I’m sure today’s column wasn’t easy to write. So your takeaway that step increases are the big villain, while popular with the trolls who inhabit Newsday’s comment pages, misses the larger point. You state that the WB district was reluctant to ask the teachers for help because we probably wouldn’t be receptive. We as a faculty have “given back” on numerous occasions during the last ten years. You asked, “Who gets a 4% increase now?” Easy answer: the wealthiest. Since 2011, more than 90% of the income gains in this country have gone to the 1 %. Yet our feckless politicians, their corporate enablers, and an AWOL media rig the game against the working and middle class families who populate our communities.
On a personal note, you should know that I haven’t received a step increase in years. Since I haven’t maxed out my graduate credits, I’m nowhere near the top of the pay scale. So you and the other aggrieved taxpayers of WB are getting a bargain with me; a teacher with nearly 40 years experience at a salary of a 25th year teacher. Silly me, I should have been in grad school when I was coaching WB kids 24/7, 365 days a year. I have no regrets, my former players and students visit every now and then to say thanks and to let me know how they’re doing. Those moments represent the true rewards that a teacher receives. Those are things that nobody at Newsday will understand any time soon, apparently. Enjoy your reading assignments! I look forward to hearing from you. Pay it forward!


All the Best,


Dave Cunningham

Thanks to legislation recently passed in Albany with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Eva Moskowitz announced that she will seek another 14 charter schools, expanding her network significantly. This August, according to her website, she will have “9,450 scholars at 32 schools” in the city. She is applying to the State University of New York, which is a friendly authorizer. The public schools of New York City are now required by state law to give her free space or pay her rent in private space. Thanks, Governor Cuomo!

This is how her press release began:


“June 10, 2014 (New York, NY) — Success Academy Charter Schools announced today that it is submitting applications to SUNY Charter Schools Institute to establish 14 new public charter schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens. Community demand for these high-performing schools reached an all time high this year, with more than 14,400 families applying for fewer than 3,000 open seats. An outgrowth of the charter-friendly legislation championed by Governor Cuomo and other state leaders this spring, the planned schools will provide educational equity to thousands of families in communities currently without viable school options for their children.”

“Chancellor Fariña recently noted that it is important to listen to the community. That is what we are doing in applying for these charters because the community is demanding more high quality charter schools,” said CEO Eva Moskowitz. “These families — representing more than a dozen neighborhoods — are desperate for great schools. Even with 14 more schools, we will not make a dent in the demand we are seeing.”

A cautionary tale:: Governor Cuomo and the effort to destroy public education in New York

To be published in The Australian Educators Union journal the “Professional Voice” June, 2014. Please visit their website for the current and past issues:

David Hursh
Warner Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester
Rochester, New York

As a long-time activist in educational policy, I have observed in New York the continual ratcheting up of high-stakes testing requirements, beginning in the 1990s with the graduation requirement of passing five standardized tests, then, under No Child Left Behind, requiring standardized tests in math and reading in grades three through eight as a means of assessing students, schools and school districts, and finally, with the institution of the Common Core State Standards, requiring standardized tests in every subject to not only assess students, but to determine teacher effectiveness and potentially removing teachers whose students do poorly on the tests (see Hursh, 2007, 2008, 2013) Furthermore, teachers are increasingly blamed not only for the failings of our educational system but also for the increasingly economic inequalities in society and the decline of the middle class, a tactic that Michael Apple describes as “exporting the blame” (Apple, 1996).

However, the increasing use of standardized tests to hold accountable and punish students and teachers tell only part of the story. Standardized testing is increasingly used as part of the rationale for privatizing education by increasing the number of privately administered but publicly funded charter schools. Consequently, public education and teachers face the greatest threat yet, one that may mean the demise of public education in New York’s cities and teaching as a profession.

As I write this, Governor Cuomo, a Democrat but not a progressive, is chairing a three-day event on educational reform called “Camp Philos” at Whiteface Lodge in the Adirondack Mountains. Many of the invitees are sponsored by a group called Education Reform Now, a non-profit advocacy group that lobbies state and federal public officials to support charter schools (publically funded but privately operated elementary and secondary schools), evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and eliminating tenure for teachers. Many of the remaining invitees are hedge fund managers, who see charter schools as investment opportunities. Admission to the retreat costs $1,000 per person, an amount teachers can little afford. But, no matter, when some teachers attempted to register, they were told “no thank you.”

Cuomo’s support for charter schools was made blatantly clear a few months ago when he led a rally at the state capitol promoting charter schools. At the rally he stated that, “education is not about the districts and not about the pensions and not about the unions
and not about the lobbyists and not about the PR firms – education is about the students, and the students come first.” He then continued to misrepresent the evidence regarding the effectiveness of charter schools, ignoring the fact that charter schools cream off the more capable students, often denying admission to students who are English Language Learners or students with disabilities. He also seemed to forget that charter schools have more funding per student because they do not have to pay for the space they use in public school buildings, pay lower salaries to their teachers who are typically young and work under year-to-year contracts, and receive extra funding from corporations and philanthropic foundations who support privatizing schooling. He also forgot to mention that he has received $400,000 for his upcoming re-election campaign from one charter school operator and another $400,000 this year from bankers, hedge fund managers, real estate executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have flocked to charter schools and other privatization efforts.

Cuomo often describes New York’s schools and teachers as failing. While as I have consistently argued throughout my career that public schools could do better, especially if teachers were supported in developing culturally appropriate and challenging curriculum, to place all the blame on teachers ignores four major issues. First, test scores are manipulated to yield whatever result current and past commissioners of education desire. As I have detailed elsewhere, results on the standardized tests are entirely unreliable because commissioners have raised and lowered the cut score on tests to portray students as failing or improving, depending on what suited their political interests (Hursh, 2007, 2008, 2013). For example, on the newly instituted Common Core exams, the cut score was set so high as to result in failing 69% of students state-wide and 95% of students in the city of Rochester. Such low passing rates have been used to denigrate public schools and teachers, and as evidence for why education needs to be privatized. Further, because the current commissioner, John King, wants to take credit for improving student learning in the state, he has already guaranteed that the scores on this year’s tests will improve, which he can ensure simply by lowering the cut score.

Second, Cuomo and other corporate reformers ignore that data show that New York’s public schools are highly racially and economically segregated; indeed, we have separate and unequal schools. A new study (Kucsera, 2014) by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA confirms what many of us always suspected: New York State has the most segregated schools in the United States. Sixty years after Brown versus Board of Education supposedly ended segregation, New York’s schools are more segregated than in the past. In “2009,” writes Kucsera, “black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools” (p. 1).

Third, Rochester has the fifth highest poverty rate of all the cities in the United States and the second highest of mid-sized cities. Ninety percent of the students in the Rochester City School District come from families who live in economic poverty. Yet Cuomo, who regularly makes public announcements on many issues, from urging us to shop locally for Easter presents and how to avoid ticks while hiking, has remained silent on the issue of segregation (Bryant, 2014, April 26).

Fourth, even though charter schools on average do not perform better than the publicly administered schools (a fact Cuomo distorts), charter schools have several advantages that should lead to better results. As mentioned earlier, charter schools are not required to admit students who are English Language Learners or who have learning disabilities. Since charter schools have the advantage of accepting only the more capable learners, leaving the others behind in the public schools, and, in many cases have space provided free by the public schools, and receive additional financial support from the Walton Family and other foundations (Rich, 2014), charter schools should have much better results than they do.

Given the weakness of the corporate reformers’ arguments, how to we explain their ability to move their agenda forward? From what I have said above, I want to expand on two things. First, the corporate reformers aim to control the discourse of public education, portraying themselves and their reform agenda as the only one that aims to improve education for all students, particularly for children living in our urban areas. While Cuomo ignores the more intractable issues of school segregation and child poverty, he claims that he is supporting charter schools because “children come first.”
In the past he has used observances marking Dr. Martin Luther. King, Jr.’s birthday to assail teachers as the primary cause for the failures of New York’s educational system and assert that high-stakes standardized testing responds to King’s vision. To be specific, Cuomo claims that, “we have to realize that our schools are not an employment program…. It is this simple: It is not about the adults; it is about the children” (Kaplan & Taylor 2012, A-17). Oddly enough, given his silence on New York’s status as the state with the most segregated schools, at the same event he cited the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, lamenting that because of failing public schools, “the great equalizer that was supposed to be the public education system can now be the great discriminator.” Perhaps he has forgotten that the Supreme Court case declared that children cannot overcome the harm caused by segregated schools. Instead, he portrays teachers’ unions as special interests and unionized teachers only caring about their pensions and contracts, while only he and others like him are for the children.

Similarly, he states that “education is not about the lobbyists,” portraying himself as above special interests and defying the efforts of lobbyists. Perhaps for Cuomo, because Camp Philos brings together the corporate and political elite who are unified in holding teachers and students accountable through standardized tests, ending tenure, decreasing the power of unions, and privatizing education, and because most importantly they are not educators, he imagines them as not the lobbyists they are but merely advocates for equality.

Which leads to the second explanation for the corporate reform success: they have money and lots of it, which not only provides supporters of charter schools and other forms of privatization access to politicians, such as in the Camp Philos retreat (no teachers wanted!), but also supports projects that help them achieve their goals. The Walton Family Foundation, who support charter schools and voucher programs that use public funds to send children to private schools, and despise unions, has given, since 2000, approximately $1 billion to charter schools and charter school advocates (Rich, 2014, April 25). Likewise, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured billions into privatization efforts and reforms including the Common Core State Standards and exams. On the Common Core alone, “research by Jack Hassard, Professor Emeritus at Georgia State, shows compelling evidence that Gates” has provided $2.3 billion in support of the Common Core, with “more than 1800 grants to organizations running from teachers unions to state departments of education to political groups like the National Governor’s Association [that] have pushed the Common Core into 45 states, with little transparency and next to no public review” (Schneider, 2014, March 17, p. 1).

Money buys influence. In March Bill Gates and David Brooks (2014), New York Times editorialist and outspoken supporter of the Common Core, had dinner with 80 U.S. Senators. Similarly, the Walton Family Foundation not only provides funds, according to their own website, to one out of every four charter schools in the United States but also funds advocacy groups like Students First, led by Michelle A. Rhee, the former Washington D.C. schools chancellor who oversaw many of the policy changes funded by Walton. As Rich (2014) notes in his article on the Walton Family Foundation, “Students First pushes for the extension of many of those same policies in states across the country, contributing to the campaigns of lawmakers who support the group’s agenda” (p. A-1). The influence of wealthy families such as Bill and Melinda Gates and the Walton family confirm the recent findings of a study by Martin Gilens (2013) on Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America that reveals how policy makers enact the preferences of the rich.

All of the above suggests that the corporate reformers have used their wealth and power to dominate the education reform agenda and promote the privatization of public education, increased standardized testing, and the demise of teaching as a profession. Consequently, what hope is there for resisting and reversing the corporate agenda?

In New York and across the country there is increasing resistance to the corporate reform movement as teachers, parents, students, and community members have formed alliances to combat corporate reforms. Last August, I was one of twelve educators and community members to create the New York State Allies for Public Education, which has a website ( and offers critical analysis of the corporate reform movement in New York. The number of organizations making up the allies now numbers 50.

Furthermore, critics of corporate reform have influenced the dominant discourse, in particular making economic and racial inequality part of the agenda. For example, critics are using the research revealing the failure to integrate schools sixty years after Brown V. Board of Education to make racial inequality an issue. They are also using the fortieth anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty to ask why there is more economic inequality now than at any time since the Great Depression. And they are using the increasing efforts by Pearson to other corporations to turn schools into centers of profit to question the purpose of schooling. Recent hearings held by Commissioner King regarding the implementation of the Common Core curriculum and exams have conceptualized and implemented have been completely dominated by critics. Critics have called for the resignation of the current commissioner. Lastly the New York State United Teachers organized four hundred teachers to “picket in the pines” at Camp Philos in upstate New York to protest that Cuomo’s education retreat is excluding teachers. The New York State Regents, who make education policy, and the New York State legislature have both acted to implement moratoriums on state initiatives to increase testing of students and teachers. Teachers, parents, and community members are becoming increasing knowledgeable, outspoken and allied regarding the corporate reform movement. The battle is on.

Note: For nine weeks from mid January to mid March I visited with teachers, union officials, and university faculty in Australia and New Zealand to learn more about the education reform initiatives in both countries. I also gave numerous presentations on the corporate led education reform movement in the United States and, in particular, my home state of New York (see the youtube video of my keynote talk to New Zealand primary school teachers and administrators at


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David Hursh, PhD
Teaching and Curriculum
Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
452 LeChase Hall
RC Box 270425
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0425
Phone: 585.275.3947
Fax: 585.486.1159
Mobile: 585.406.1258

Associate Region Editor- Americas- Journal of Education Policy.
Associate Editor- Policy Futures in Education


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