Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NY Times: Cuomo Reportedly Set To Reduce Role Of Testing In His Vaunted APPR Teacher Evaluation System

It's amazing what 220,000+ opt outs and poll numbers mired in the very low 40's will do to a politician's take on a particular issue:

Less than a year ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proclaimed that the key to transforming the state’s education system was tougher evaluations for teachers, and he pushed through changes that increased the weight of student test scores in teachers’ ratings.

Now, facing a parents’ revolt against testing, the state is poised to change course and reduce the role of test scores in evaluations. And according to two people involved in making state education policy, Mr. Cuomo has been quietly pushing for a reduction, even to zero. That would represent an about-face from January, when the governor called for test scores to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

There's some conjecture on just what this "reduction" will be:

The idea that Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is pushing for the changes comes from several different avenues. According to one of the education policy makers, Mr. Malatras said in a conversation that the administration wanted to decouple test scores and evaluations. The other person reported having spoken with people who had similar conversations with the administration.

Two members of the Board of Regents, the body that sets state education policy, said they had heard that Mr. Cuomo was pushing for a moratorium on the use of test scores in evaluations. The two board members, Kathleen M. Cashin and Betty A. Rosa, both said they would heartily support such a change.

There's a big difference between "decoupling" tests scores from evaluations and having a "moratorium" on test scores being used in evaluations, so as always with this stuff, the devil is in the details.

Cuomo, through shill Malatras, is claiming nothing has been determined yet, that they're waiting for findings from the vaunted Common Core Review task force that Cuomo announced in September - but that's jive of course.

Cuomo has controlled every commission, panel and task force he's put together, from the two Moreland Commissions (one after Sandy on utilities, one on corruption that has him under federal investigation for witness tampering and possible obstruction) to the other two education commissions he put together (just ask Todd Hathaway who disagreed with the findings of the task force he sat on but had his name signed to the pre-determined report nonetheless!)

So what Cuomo wants, Cuomo's Common Core Review task force will find.

And it looks as if the governor, reeling from the bad press and bad polling on education, has perhaps decided the suitcases full of cash he gets from ed deformers aren't enough to keep him pushing ed deform policies in toto:

In New York, Mr. Cuomo’s push to give test scores more weight in evaluations helped propel a widespread test refusal movement this year, centered on Long Island. More than 200,000 of the nearly 1.2 million students expected to take the annual reading and math tests did not sit for them in 2015. At some schools, as many as 75 percent of students opted out.

Long Islanders tend to be swing voters, and education is a top concern of theirs, given the high percentage of school-age children and the role that local schools’ reputations have on real estate values, said Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

“Considering how his numbers fell off in suburban communities in the last election, I thought that the governor had to pay close attention to the desires and the demands of these suburban swing constituencies,” Mr. Levy said.

One final point to make on this - there's a likelihood that all they're going to do is call for a "moratorium" on test score use in APPR or a "moratorium" on the "penalties" teachers would suffer for low scores:

“A moratorium is under consideration,” said State Senator Carl L. Marcellino, a Long Island Republican, chairman of the Education Committee and a member of the task force.

The Board of Regents would quite likely approve a moratorium or any other step to reduce the role of test scores in evaluations. Until recently, a majority of the board supported tying test scores to evaluations, but the Legislature elected several new members this year who are critical of that policy.

This "moratorium" could come based upon the 50% test score criteria Cuomo imposed in the budget or it could be lowered to something like 20% (which is apparently what NYSED MaryEllen Elia thinks it ought to be.)

In any case, the "big changes" to education policy Cuomo promised look to be coming.

Whether they're substantive changes or more jive made to look like substantive changes remains to be seen.

Having watched Cuomo closely now for a few years, I remain skeptical.

But the low approval numbers in the polling, the especially low education numbers in those polls, the high opt out rates (with the numbers set to go even higher this year if the status quo continues) and the even higher "hardship waivers" districts got on Cuomo's vaunted new APPR teacher evaluation system with the 50% test score component seem to have weakened some of Cuomo's resolve to continue to scapegoat teachers for all the ills in the education system.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rob Astorino Offers Mental Health Services To "Insecure" Andrew Cuomo

This made my day:

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino—the 2014 Republican candidate for governor—today suggested Gov. Andrew Cuomo suffers from “insecurities,” and offered to help connect Mr. Cuomo with therapy.

Mr. Astorino was responding to comments Mr. Cuomo made earlier today, in which the Democratic governor argued that Mayor Bill de Blasio should not appear beside the socially conservative GOP politician at a press conference calling for greater federal infrastructure investment this evening. Mr. Astorino blasted the governor, a resident of Westchester’s Mount Kisco, and said he would be willing to connect him with local mental health resources to deal with his inner demons.

“You know, it seems to me that the statement that the governor made was completely out of line, number one, and just from my observation, it seems like the governor has some insecurities,” Mr. Astorino told the Observer at the presser in Penn Station. “Since he’s a constituent of mine, I’d be more than happy to set him up with our Department of Community Mental Health if he actually needs some help on this issue.”

“I am going to work with the mayor whenever we can see eye-to-eye and can advance an issue that’s important,” Mr. Astorino continued.

Cuomo, btw, works with many Republicans, including former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, now on trial for corruption, and former deputy state Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, soon to be under house arrest after being convicted of lying to the FBI.

And for years Cuomo has touted his bipartisan bona fides - in fact, he just touted them in a speech at Harvard the other day decrying how Washington can't get along anymore because it's too partisan.

So the phrase that comes to mind after reading about Cuomo's criticism of de Blasio for standing with Astorino on the infrastructure issue is, "full of shit."

As for Astorino's claim that Cuomo suffers from insecurities and needs mental health help, that's a keen and accurate assessment of our sociopathic governor from his former opponent.

What To Make Of This?

If you're watching the Shelly Silver trial closely the way I am, this is interesting information:

After just two hours of deliberation, jurors in the corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are already showing signs of stress and confusion.

In one note, a juror said she had a "different" view from others, felt pressured and wanted to be excused.

In a second, a juror asked if there was any Assembly code of conduct prohibiting Silver's actions. 
Lawyers and Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni are discussing how to respond, just hours after jurors in the closely-watched trial began deliberations at 10:55 on Tuesday morning.

I dunno, I'm not a lawyer but it seems to me that signs of "stress and confusion" in a jury are not good for the prosecution.

Time For Another Hedge Fund Manager-Funded Pro-Common Core Ad Buy

From State of Politics:

High Achievement New York, a group that has been supportive of Common Core, is launching a six-figure radio campaign aimed at boosting support for the education standards.

The campaign, set to run through December, is being launched as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force convened to study and potentially recommend changes to the standards is concluding its round of public hearings.

In the ad, two Buffalo teachers discuss their support for the standards, saying they “are working” for students.

“But opponents want to pull the rug out on teachers,” says teacher Lucy Mendola in the spot.

Teacher Heather McCarthy adds: “Help us strengthen New York Standards, not dismantle them.” 
The ads will be targeted for audiences in New York City, the Capital Region, Buffalo and Rochester.

This isn't the first time pro-Common Core ad buys have run.

They haven't worked in the past.

I have a difficult time seeing these work either - the polling is pretty clear in its trends where the public at large stands on Common Core.

But there is a strategy, perhaps, behind the ads:

The spot...directs listeners to the task force’s comments page as well as the Department of Education’s feedback survey.

NYSED has already been touting its CCSS survey, the one that takes intimate knowledge of the standards and hours to fill out, as proof positive New Yorkers love them some Common Core.

Perhaps Hedge Fund, er, High Achievement New York wants to juice the numbers even more by directing people to that survey.

Then they'll point to the survey to say New Yorkers don't want any changes to the Common Core.

Perhaps this is all part of Cuomo's plan to make it look like changes are coming to the state's education policy when no real change is coming.

Quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some coordination between the group and the Cuomo administration, since the backers of High Achievement come from the same place as his donor class, and Cuomo has been known to coordinate with ed deformers before (see here, for example.)

John Flanagan "Advisor" Caught Signaling To Witness In Dean Skelos Trial


A top-level state Senate staffer scurried out of the corruption trial of former Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Monday after being accused of coaching a witness on the stand.

Welquis “Ray” Lopez, 61, was summoned to the bench during a break in the proceedings and threatened with ejection by Manhattan federal Judge Kimba Wood.

“You’ve been nodding your head up and down and back and forth in what looks like a signal to the witness,” Wood said during testimony by a former Long Island politician who admitted serving as the bagman for an alleged payoff of Skelos’ son and co-defendant, Adam.

“If you nod your head one more time, I’m going to have court security escort you out of the courtroom.”

Sources described the former Rockville Center Republican chairman as “very close” to Skelos (R-LI), who gave him a $140,000-a-year “special adviser” job in 2011.

Despite Skelos’ resignation following his May arrest, Lopez remains on the state payroll as a $162,750-a-year adviser to interim Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-LI).

The last five state senate majority leaders have been indicted and several are already in jail - looks like John Flanagan, with these kind of shenanigans, wants to be the next.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cuomo To Bus + Bus + Train Commuters: Screw You

Perhaps MTA commuters would get a better hearing from Governor Cuomo if they gave him a bag full of money first like his real estate donors:

Gov. Cuomo vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have provided fare relief to commuters who have to take two buses and a train to reach their destination.

The measure, which overwhelmingly passed the state Legislature in June, would have allowed riders on some routes to get two free transfers instead of one within two hours.

MetroCards now allow one free transfer between a subway and a bus or between two buses during a two-hour period.

As part of their commute, most of these riders have to take two buses before reaching the subway and are paying two fares, said the bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz (D-Bronx) and Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn).

The MTA claims the second transfer would cost a bundle, Cuomo claims riders can buy an unlimited card and it's all good.

But not everybody can afford an unlimited card and as for the MTA's claims that the second transfer will cost them too much money, well there is this:

But Dinowitz says Cuomo and the MTA are leaving riders in the lurch — especially those who cannot afford the monthly outlay for an unlimited-ride card.

“The MTA is not known for putting out accurate numbers,” he said. “It’s just not fair for people who, through no fault of their own, have to take three rides and are in a two-fare zone.”

Meanwhile today Cuomo said he's not ready to stop taking money from the crooked real estate company at the center of the Silver and Skelos corruption trials.

Priorities, priorities.

More Cuomo Corruption News

Bill Mahoney at Capital NY:

Glenwood Management, the real estate developer at the center of two former legislative leaders' federal corruption trials, gave half a million dollars in 2011 to an advocacy group that focused solely on supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo's agenda.

Evidence federal prosecutors released Sunday in the trial of Sen. Dean Skelos itemizes the contributions that various Glenwood holdings made over the past decade.


On Oct. 24, 2011, a total of 10 different Glenwood holdings each made out a $50,000 check to the group, according to the federal evidence. The next day, one of them wrote a separate $50,000 check destined for Cuomo’s campaign committee.

On the same day that the holdings of Glenwood — whose principal owner Leonard Litwin was identified by Forbes in 2007 as the world’s 891st richest individual — made the donations, Occupy Wall Street protesters focused on assailing Cuomo for being too close to the “1 percent.”

Glenwood and Litwin gave Cuomo’s committee $1 million during the last election cycle, more than any other donor. They also gave his 2014 running mate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, $19,700 and the New York State Democratic Committee $450,000.

The $500,000 given to the Committee to Save New York thus brings the total from the developer that went to support the governor during his first term to $1.97 million — about 32 times the campaign contribution limit imposed on donations from most individuals.

Other donors to the Committee To Save NY, the Cuomo PAC (that's what it was whether Cuomo wants to admit it or not since it ONLY did work for him), included a casino developer and other gambling interests that gave CSNY $2 million just as Cuomo was deciding on whether to legalize casino gambling in the state.

Funny how that worked - give money to Cuomo PAC that Cuomo says isn't his PAC but functions as an ancillary to his campaign, then get favorable policy (i.e., legalized casino gambling) in return.

Sheriff Andy said he rode into Albany to clean the corruption cesspool up but the more you learn about the doings up in the state capital, the more you realize Sheriff Andy's up to his neck in the cesspool too.

Dunno how far the feds are digging into Cuomo and his donors either as part of the Silver and Skelos corruption trials (and Mahoney points out Glenwood is at the center of both) or as part of the Buffalo Billion investigation.

But it seems to me if the feds get a conviction on Silver in a case where no specific quid pro quo has been shown (though that is no done deal, as can be seen here), there's some smoke around Cuomo and his donors too.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Andy Pallotta Has The Sads Over A Blog Post

Yesterday somebody told me that NYSUT leadership is upset about this post from Sullio that succinctly and devastatingly explains how the NYSUT leadership runs things at the union.

The gist of the post is that leadership doesn't care what rights and protections teachers have lost, doesn't care how the rank and file feel about these lost rights and protections, and doesn't care to do anything to rectify these lost rights and protections because membership dues are required by law so why should they care?

Apparently NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, who was never once mentioned in Sullio's post, is upset because he says the post compares him to a gangster - this despite the fact that the mob is never mentioned in the post either.

The only reference to the mob is a brief clip from the film Goodfellas that explains how, when you're paying protection money to the mob, it doesn't matter what happens during the week that might make those payments inconvenient - you've got to come up with the protection money no matter what.

You know, kinda like how teachers have to pony up their union dues every month no matter how many rights and protections disappear because the NYSUT leadership is either complicit with the education reform movement that seeks to destroy the teaching profession or is totally incompetent to stop them (take your pick on which but I lean toward Choice #1.)

Pallotta wants the state attorney general to look into the blog post and filed a discrimination complaint  because, you know, what better things can NYSUT spend time, money and energy on then attacking a blogger who accurately depicts how NYSUT runs its operations.

NYC Educator took on NYSUT leaders over this here.

Sean Crowley did the same here.

Here's my take:

With the Friedrichs case to be heard this year by the Supreme Court and the likelihood coming that the U.S. will be made into a "right-to-work" nation where union dues cannot be compelled from government workers after that case is decided, you'd think NYSUT leadership would be busy re-thinking their "Top-down/Fuck the rank and file cuz' I got mine" way of running things, but given Andy Pallotta's concern over a blog post, that's apparently not the case.

I dunno, perhaps Pallotta has the sads because NYSUT leadership is about to lose a few cars off their union gravy train post-Friedrichs, perhaps he's not a fan of Goodfellas and prefers Casino instead (though I dunno why, since Casino seems so derivative of Goodfellas.)

Either way, Pallotta ought to grow up and worry less about blog posts and more about what's going to happen to NYSUT once the Supreme Court says members no longer are compelled to pay dues.

If I were him, I might be thinking, "Hey, maybe we have to start serving our members and actually protecting their interests," but given the nonsense we've seen from NYSUT so far this year, it doesn't appear that's where the leadership's heading.

Instead they appear to be going down the road of "We'll try and exert even tighter control and destroy any opposition and/or criticism" even as their political House of Cards comes tumbling down around them.

I'm no professional political strategist like Andy Pallotta, but something tells me that strategy will be about as effective as NYSUT's strategy against Andy Cuomo's toxic education reform agenda.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fun With Dean And Adam Skelos

Just a few tidbits from the Dean and Adam Skelos trial on what an affable fellow and upstanding citizen Adam Skelos is:

I dunno, I'm not a defense lawyer and I'm thankfully not on trial on corruption charges, but once the wiretaps were deemed admissible as evidence in the Skelos' trial, I think I might have looked for a plea deal.

You can make a pretty good argument that Shelly Silver going to trial rather than looking for a plea deal made sense because the alleged quid pro quo schemes in his case are complex, require detailed explanations and even then, there's no slam dunk "That's definitely a crime!" moment as you hear the evidence.

I think the preponderance of the evidence in the Silver case, taken as a whole, leaves a fair observer with the impression that Silver was trying to hide where his outside income was coming from and what he was (or wasn't) doing to obtain it and those attempts at secrecy got more desperate as disclosure laws were changed over time and he risked exposure.

Whether a jury finds any of that rises to the level of a crime, well, that's hard to say, but here are the instructions the jurors will get from the judge on that point, per Joshua Saul at the NY Post:

Essentially the Silver trial comes down to whether the jury buys the Silver defense argument that "friends will do favors for friends."

The Skelos case, on the other hand, has more moments of "Holy Cow, I can't believe that just happened!" than you often get in high profile trials of politicos.

It's all there - the threats and intimidation (some overt, some implied) of some pretty big players in New York by Dean and Adam, the payoffs Adam received for essentially doing nothing other than having the state senate majority leader as his dad, and Adam and Dean themselves conspiring on the phone.

We're only a few days into the Skelos trial, but the more you hear from Dean and Adam via wiretap and the more testimony you get from the prosecution witnesses, the more difficult it is to see how a jury comes in with anything other than guilty verdicts.

Earlier this week we learned that Adam Skelos' lawyer asked about a plea deal from the feds though nothing ever came from it after the feds returned communication.

I have to think Adam didn't like what he heard from the fed side about what a plea deal would entail but given how bad the evidence is here for him, I wonder if that wasn't a mistake for him.

Common Core Is Doing Its Job - Anxiety Increasing In Children

Mission Accomplished for Common Core:

Six in 10 school psychologists said the Common Core learning standards, which includes state exams for students in third through eighth grades each April, has increased students’ anxiety.

The anxiety hasn’t, for the most part, led to physical ailments, the school psychologists said, but the new Common Core testing has translated into students feeling more stressed.

“This report should make all education stakeholders — from state policymakers to local teachers to parents — aware of the profound impact that they can have, both positive and negative, on student test anxiety,” Timothy Kremer, executive director of the School Boards Association, said in a statement.

The report contended that the test anxiety is more common at the elementary-school level, saying students more often showed “internalized” symptoms such as excessive worry and withdrawal rather than demonstrating “externalized” symptoms, such as increased irritability, frustration and acting out.

One of the goals of the education reform movement is to create a compliant class of dutiful order-takers - nothing like having kids internalize symptoms of worry and withdrawal to do just that.

I would argue that at older ages, the children are beginning to act out.

I have been told by counselors that they're seeing increased cases of alcohol use, drug use, eating disorders and self-harm like cutting themselves.

That's anecdotal of course, but I've seen some of this in my work too.

Exacerbating all of this is how teachers are forced to make every class "rigorous" and "text-based," with children given very few opportunities to express their own thoughts or feelings through art, writing or speaking.

We truly have a system where "no one gives a shit what you think or feel - just can you do the market analysis by Monday."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Be A Teacher! Read A Script! Administer Tests! Fear For Your Job At All Times!

That's the message that young people have gotten in the Era of Education Reform about the teaching profession according to Stephen Mulcher, director of the Bard College Master of Arts Teaching Program in Los Angeles:

Finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option.  Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.

As a result, today’s college students, including those currently marching on campus, are significantly less likely than their parents to see teaching as a viable way to become agents of social change. Of all age groups, voters 18-29 are the most pessimistic about the teaching profession. Only 24 percent are “very likely” to encourage a friend or family member to become a K-12 teacher today.


In a comparison across 14 professions, teaching ranked last among respondents who felt that their “opinions seem to count,” or included workplaces with “an environment that is trusting and open.”  Three out of four teachers complain that high stakes testing takes too much classroom time away from actual teaching. Nearly 9 in 10 teachers feel that linking teacher evaluations to students’ test scores is “unfair.”


“All teachers do now is read from scripts and administer tests all day,” a Senior psychology major at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro told me last spring.

Why would anyone in their right mind go into teaching these days when you are evaluated via test scores (often the scores of students you don't even teach!), you can be "drive-by evaluated" at any moment by an administrator who will come into your classroom for fifteen minutes and rate you using a rubric that you cannot possibly fulfill in that fifteen minute snippet of teaching, your seniority and tenure protections are stripped from you, your pay is increasingly tied to "student performance" as measured by standardized tests and you have no autonomy to teach what you want to teach or how you want to teach but must read from pre-approved EngageNY scripts that suck the soul and life out of education?

Seriously, why would anyone want to go into that king of "profession"?

I'm not sure if education reformers, whose goal has always been to destroy public education and privatize schools, wanted to create teacher shortages and disdain for teaching among young people or not.

I know they wanted to drive down perceptions of teachers within the culture (thus the decades long "Teachers Are Criminals!" public relations extravaganza in the media) and I know they wanted to diminish teacher autonomy, work protections and compensation so as to exert more control over schools while simultaneously lowering labor costs.

But if they thought that young people wouldn't notice how shitty a job teaching is these days and decide they'd rather do anything but that for work, they were mistaken there.

Teacher shortages are already a problem in many states (google the phrase "teacher shortage" and you'll see) and they are only going to get worse in the near term as the economy continues to improve (and it is - the Fed is finally going to raise interest rates next month for the first time in nearly a decade) and the job market gets better.

It will be interesting to see how the education reform movement responds to widespread teacher shortages.

The shortages haven't come to New York yet, but they'll get here too and once they do, pushing shitty contracts that strip teachers of autonomy, seniority, and work protections while imposing longer days/hours/health care costs on them isn't going to be the way to attract younger people to the profession.

Reformers may think technology will replace the human teacher, but I have a hard time seeing that working well over the long haul state-wide.

And the way things are going now, they're going to have an awfully hard time finding enough younger people to become teachers to replace the retiring older ones (or fleeing ones!)

Does The Buffalo School District Really Think Teachers Will Go For This?

From the Buffalo News:

After years of failed attempts to negotiate a new contract with the Buffalo Teachers Federation, the School Board is now taking its latest offer directly to teachers.

The move underscores a lack of faith that negotiations are headed toward any kind of resolution, and suggests the district could be close to pulling the plug on talks with an outside mediator. That would put the district in uncharted waters, and some have already suggested the issue will likely wind up in court.

In a letter emailed to teachers Thursday, the board attempts to make the case for contractual changes it is seeking. The most significant include:

• Increasing the school day from six hours and 50 minutes to seven hours and 30 minutes.

• Increasing the number of work days from 186 to 189 each year.

• Requiring teachers to pay 12 percent of their health insurance premium, as opposed to paying nothing now.

• Allowing principals to transfer and assign teachers based on educational needs, not seniority.

• A 10 percent salary increase for teachers, plus an additional 1 percent each of the next three years.

“Without the changes the District has proposed, a system of failure will simply be perpetuated, and the consequences of continuous failure could be devastating,” the board’s letter states.

The decision to take its offer directly to teachers is the latest turn in a lengthy and contentious negotiation process to revamp a contract that expired more than a decade ago. Attorney Terry O’Neil, who is negotiating for the district, said board members do not believe union leaders are accurately relaying their offers to teachers and wanted to present the information themselves.

“We went to the teachers and said ‘Here are the options, just so you know,’ ” he said.

These are the "options"?

Longer school day, longer school year, loss of seniority rights and paying 12% of health care?

Dunno about all the teachers teachers in Buffalo, but my response to a "Fuck You!" proposal like this would be "Fuck you too!"

The 1% "increase (10% + 1% for each additional year over the next three) is more than eaten away by the health care costs and the extra time/work.

This is what the district went around the union to offer to teachers?

Uh, thanks, but no thanks.

Seems many teachers in Buffalo feel the same:

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said his office had been fielding calls all day from teachers angry about the board’s letter.

“The letter outraged the teachers,” Rumore said. “It was like rubbing salt into an open wound.”

Buffalo teachers are working under the longest expired contract in history.

The district, backed by the powers that be, are offering a "Fuck you!" contract in order to continue the logjam in negotiations, giving them the excuse to take the mess to court and try and circumvent the Triborough Agreement:

Some have already suggested the case could end up in court and test the Taylor Law, the state statute that sets rules for municipalities when bargaining with civil service and teacher unions. Many argue that the law and its accompanying Triborough Amendment – which allows for expired contract terms to remain in effect until a new deal is reached – have long given these unions a clear edge in negotiations.

“This is a perfect illustration of how the combination of the Taylor Law and the Triborough Amendment can create problems,” O’Neil said. “We’ll have to assess where we’re headed and whether we’re headed for litigation.”

So this battle in Buffalo is something to watch statewide, not only for how the contract negotiations play out but also to see if there is a weakening of the Triborough Agreement that maintains expired contracts in effect until a new contract deal is agreed upon.

I wouldn't be too surprised if that isn't the ultimate goal of the powers that be here - to weaken Triborough while maintaining the punitive Taylor Law that punishes municipal unions for striking.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Campbell Brown Surfaces In Dean/Adam Skelos Corruption Case Wiretaps

From the Politico NY morning email update on education:

From phone call between Adam and Dean Skelos Dec. 14. 2014:  
“AS: What are you up to?  
DS: Um going into the city. Meeting with some billionaires.  
AS: Who are you meeting with?  
DS: On school tax credit stuff. Campbell Brown.  
AS: Oh. Ok.  
DS. A reporter, former reporter. 
AS: Dad, you gotta take these names down….All I need is contacts. I’ll take care of the rest.” 
(Dean laughs)

Some billionaires and Campbell Brown meet with crooked Dean Skelos over "school tax credit stuff".

Love it.

Maybe they could have gotten exactly what they wanted on the "school tax credit stuff"" if they had provided Adam Skelos with a no-show job at Families for Excellent Schools.

Just so long as they didn't ask him to, you know, show up for work.

How Three Men In A Room Operate In New York State

Here's one of the wiretaps from the Dean and Adam Skelos corruption trial, courtesy of the Daily News:

There's one of the vaunted "three men in a room" in Albany discussing with his son how sad he is that the governor has banned fracking - something he himself says has little support - because his son stood to gain financially from the procedure: 

The recordings were admitted into evidence during the testimony of Senator Avella, who gave the jury a primer on the Senate. A prosecutor in the case, Jason A. Masimore, then questioned him about legislation that the government has alleged was part of three schemes under which Senator Skelos used his position to obtain more than $300,000 in payments for his son.

Mr. Masimore, using emails and other documents along with the tapes, walked Mr. Avella through some of the evidence that prosecutors say shows how the schemes worked. He asked the senator if he would have voted the way he did on certain bills if he had known that Senator Skelos supported them, and that his son had in some ways secretly benefited from them.

In one instance, he showed Mr. Avella a draft agreement under which Adam Skelos would have received $1 per barrel of fracking waste water treated by a company, AbTech Industries, that paid him as a consultant. Mr. Avella said each fracking well produced tens of thousands of gallons of contaminated water a day.

The prosecutor then asked if Mr. Avella, a leading opponent of fracking, had known that Senator Skelos had asked his staff to set up a meeting on the subject between AbTech and state officials. He said he had not, and when asked if that would have mattered to him as a state senator he said, “Without question.”

“Given the fact that this is one of the most significant environmental considerations that the State of New York has probably had to decide in a hundred years, that influences being made on behalf of a family member is inappropriate and, in my opinion, absolutely disgraceful,” he said.

The wiretap also makes clear how Skelos and Senate Republicans used the turncoat Dems of the IDC to maintain control of the state Senate and how he had worked with Cuomo in the past but after the fracking decision, would no longer be "buddy-buddy" with the governor:

The son used an anatomical term to refer to Mr. Cuomo, and asked, “How do we beat him, Dad?”

“We will,” the senator replied. “I’m going to run against him.”

“I wish you would, Dad,” the son said, his mood seeming to lift, adding with coarse language that he “would be so proud” if the senator soundly defeated Mr. Cuomo.

“You watch what I’m going to do in the next couple of years with him, especially starting this year,” the senator said. “No more, you know, buddy-buddy and all that stuff,” he continued, and then referred to the governor with an expletive.

Today Glenwood bagman Charlie Dorego is expected to continue his testimony and explain how Glenwood doled out millions in campaign cash to politicians through LLC's:

Mr. Dorego, as part of his testimony, gave jurors a brief primer on limited liability companies, or LLCs, explaining that each of Glenwood’s 20-plus buildings was owned by such an entity, and that each of those was in turn owned by the Litwin Family Trust. Prosecutors are expected to show during the trial that Glenwood used the LLCs to shower millions of dollars in campaign contributions on political candidates, including Senator Skelos.

Dorego, btw, just got finished testifying in the Shelly Silver corruption trial - how's that for synchronicity? - and Governor Cuomo's biggest donor was Glenwood, so the other two "men in a room" in Albany are coming up in this trial too.

Speaking of Silver, the prosecution rested their case yesterday and Silver's defense is not expected to call any witnesses, just introduce documents to the jury that will try and bolster their argument that Silver's financial dealings were not quid pro quo crimes but simply business as usual in Albany.

Quite a show we've got going on right now and with the feds investigating Cuomo's Buffalo Billion Project and campaign donors, the show may get even better before it's all said and done.

Something tells me that much hinges upon on the Silver case.

Given the evidence in the Skelos case, it's difficult to see the prosecution not getting convictions in the trial.

But the Silver case is much more complex and Silver could walk.

If that happens, the feds may be a little more circumspect in how they work through the Buffalo Billion Project investigation and the remaining Moreland cases (including looking into Cuomo's shutdown of the commission in return for a budget deal.)

But if they get Silver, well, if I were Sheriff Andy, I'd be worried about them going for the trifecta.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quote of the Day

A Perdido Street School blog commenter on this post about Andrew Cuomo taking credit for Sheldon Silver's indictment despite Cuomo's having shut down the Moreland Commission before the panel could finish the Silver investigation:

Hopefully, Silver will take credit for Cuomo's Indictment.

Cuomo Takes Credit For Silver Indictment

Man, you can't make this up:

He disbanded his own anti-corruption commission before its work was done, but Gov. Cuomo claimed Tuesday a law he approved spurred corruption charges against one of New York’s state legislative leaders.

While addressing students at Harvard University on Tuesday, Cuomo was asked why five legislative leaders in a row were indicted on corruption charges — including former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who are currently on trial in federal courts.

“We have passed all kinds of laws, more transparency and disclosure laws than ever before,” Cuomo said.

“One of the state leaders was indicted because of one of the laws that I passed that required more disclosure,” he added.

Had the US attorney not picked up the Moreland files and pursued the cases the commission was looking into, Sheldon Silver would not have been indicted.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that, since the head of the Moreland Commission was feeding Cuomo's office everything that the commission was doing, and since the commission was looking into both then Assembly Speaker Silver and then state Senate Majority Leader Skelos, Cuomo knew Silver and Skelos were both targets and made a deal to shut the commission with them anyway in exchange for a lukewarm package of ethics reform and a budget deal.

Takes a lot of chutzpah for Cuomo to claim he's the reason Silver was indicted when Silver wouldn't have been indicted had not Preet Bharara intervened.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cuomo Administration Official Criticizes MaryEllen Elia's Common Core Plan

Division between Cuomo and Elia/NYSED on Common Core and the Endless Testing regime (via State of Politics):

As the battle over potential changes to the controversial Common Core standards begins to take shape in New York, an official in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is reacting cooly to a package of preliminary recommendations being made by Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

The commissioner, who outlined the recommendations on Monday ahead of the department’s task force to revise and study the standards, suggested

-Extending the current freeze on the reporting of test results for grades three through eight on permanent records through the 2018-19 school year
-The creation of an advisory council for computer-based tests.
-Spending $10 million to create Native Language Arts examinations that would allow those learning English to take the tests in Spanish
-An additional $2.9 million for alternative assessments for students deemed to have severe disabilities.
-The creation of a “teacher portal” that would enable educators across the state to receive additional resources in the rollout of Common Core in history and science.
-A proposed five-year spending plan for teacher and principal professional development.

The Cuomo administration official, however, was not impressed.

“SED’s recommendations only offer more of the status quo and are just thinly veiled requests for financial resources by a state agency,” the official said.

Cuomo is throwing Elia and NYSED under the bus on Common Core (and he will throw her and SED under the bus every chance he gets in order to distance himself from the mess he in part created through his education reform agenda - just as he did with John King and SED)

No surprise here - Cuomo's M.O. has been to try and avoid responsibility for the mess he helped create with his APPR teacher evaluation system and his pro-testing, pro-CCSS agenda.

That said, the Cuomo official is right that the SED "package of recommendations" is nothing other than minor tweaks to a broken machine.

A "teacher portal" and five years of extra PD?

An "advisory council" for computer-based tests?

That's the best Gates Foundation genius Elia could do?

Not much to these recommendations, is there?

If this is the best Elia can do, she's going to be out on her Gates Foundation-favored ass sooner rather than later.

Cuomo's already turning on her and using her as a scapegoat for unpopular policies and Elia shows no willingness to actually call for changes to those policies or comprehend how deeply unpopular they are.

Ridiculous NYSED Claim About Common Core Support Will Add To Opt Out Numbers

Yesterday NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said 71.5% of respondents to the rigged NYSED survey about Common Core support the standards.

Commenters at Perdido Street School responded with scorn:

Parents will provide NYSED all the feedback they need on the April "survey".


When Elia proclaims that everyone loves the CC and it's still full speed ahead with the bullshit, she'll add another 200,000 to the opt outs in April.


Amazing, anyone who has kids knows that number is a complete fabrication. It insults parents, teachers, the public and students. They must have used Common Core math to arrive at that figure.

I think the insulting treatment from Cuomo, Elia and company over education policy will end up backfiring on them too.

Cuomo rigged his CCSS public hearings for minimal attendance by having them in small spaces at times that are so close to school hours that many people can't get to them in time to sign up and speak (see here and here.)

Elia rigged the NYSED Common Core survey to make it as arduous, complex and jargon-laden as possible so that only the most committed would finish it (see here.)

Now she's claiming 71.5% support for CCSS when polling from Siena shows widespread opposition to the standards (see here and here.)

This comes on top of the Endless Testing propaganda site she put together, replete with talking points and sample tweets, for superintendents to use in communicating with parents and teachers about the wonders of the state's testing regime.

The powers that be continue to play games with parents and teachers, on the one hand saying that they're "listening" to the dissatisfaction over Common Core and Endless Testing (see Cuomo's approval numbers on education here and here) while doing all they can to ensure the status quo with the other.

But as the commenters noted, their gambits won't work - when the education policies of Endless Testing and Common Core do not change, parents and teachers will not be fooled by rigged surveys, rigged Common Core hearings, or "sample" pro-Common Core social media messages.

Monday, November 16, 2015

NYSED Uses Rigged Survey To Claim 71.5% Back Common Core

No wonder NYSED made the Common Core survey so long and complicated - they were going to use it to claim they have wide support for their reforms:

A state-backed survey soliciting detailed critiques of the Common Core has drawn responses that are largely supportive of the standards, according to the state Education Department.

The state Board of Regents heard an update Monday on the department’s “AimHighNY” survey, which was launched in October as the state began a review of its first five years with the oft-debated, more-stringent education standards.

So far, about 71.5 percent of the feedback elicited through the survey has been “supportive of the standards,” according to the department’s presentation. The remaining 28.5 percent was not supportive.

The survey is geared toward teachers, administrators and others who deal with the standards every day. Indeed, the majority of the 5,500 survey takers — 62.2 percent — have been teachers. Parents have made up 21.6 percent of the survey pool, with administrators coming in at 6.9 percent.

The way they rigged this is to make the survey an arduous process:

Survey takers can’t just leave general critiques of the standards; Instead, they have to be about specific aspects of the Common Core, down to the grade level, subject matter and detail.

Here's how some would-be survey-takers described the process:

“I started and stopped after 5 minutes. A person would need to be totally familiar with every standard and the curriculum used in a school to be able to complete this survey. This is another slap in the face to the parents, because they will not be able to answer the questions.” -Lorri G.

“This survey is set up horribly and only asks questions about each SPECIFIC standard, and takes over half hour to complete. The important thing to point out to the media is that the standards are copywritten and cannot be changed. Just another false move on NYSED’s part to make it seem like they are listening. Smoke and mirrors.” -anonymous New York parent.

“It’s horrible!!! It is so drawn out and confusing. Just like Common Core. It would take hours to literally answer each question for each grade level for each course and section of each module. They set this up to fail just like common core. They figure no one will take the time to fill it out so it will look like every thing is fine and dandy.” – Monique Armann

“Yet this is open to all, but “all” are having a difficult time navigating the specific and individual standards within the survey. Heck, teachers have a difficult time with them and we have to deal with them on a daily basis in the classroom. Elia, is more or less laying down the gauntlet. “Here’s your chance, teachers. You said the Common Core State Standards are narrow, inappropriate, misguided, ineffective, imposed, relentless, demoralizing, overly complex, nontransparent, inadequate, and unreliable (I may have left out one or two). You may address the standards, individually, in your free time, but beware, if you stray from addressing the standard in any way, we’ll reject it out of hand. Also, did we mention your cookies must be in order on your device? I know we said you can come back to your information, but…well, no. Oh, and you can’t change your mind once you’ve submitted anything. No, why would we let you do that? Really, teachers, we don’t expect you to do this. We’ve made it very difficult for everyone. But, in the end, we will be able to shrug our shoulders and say, we gave NY a chance to respond. Argue that.” -Kristin S.

Here's how Anna Shah of the  Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education described the survey:

“I wish I had good news, but I’m skeptical about the survey. The survey seems to have been developed, in my opinion, to be cumbersome and burdensome… I don’t believe you can go back and I believe that if you do not complete the survey in one sitting then you are out of luck, and have to start over from scratch.

Frankly, I have serious concerns about the survey because beyond the substance of the questions and its format, the survey appears to require parents to comment on each specific standard. Given the fact that many parents are not educators, I’m not sure that this is a fair question to ask of the “public” at large. How many parents are incredibly familiar with common core standards and the impact they are having on our students? I’m sure parents are probably not as familiar or knowledgeable about each and every standard and corresponding sequence that follows, so the set up of the survey seems to expressly disqualify the average parent from participating at the outset.

More troubling, it explains that information or comments that do not directly relate to a standard will be disregarded. So, for example, generalizations about how the cc curriculum is developmentally inappropriate and is adversely affecting students and children, which the average parent absolutely and positively has legitimate experience with, is likely to be summarily dismissed.

Also of importance, the fact that the survey privacy disclaimer explains that if you choose to complete the survey and submit a response to be considered by the committee, then you are consenting to allowing nysed to data mine your Info and collect information beyond normal procedure- for example nysed specifically explains that they will be tracking your IP AND web use both before and after you take the survey, and collecting information about the sites that you have visited before, after, and during the survey. I have some ideas about why they’re doing this.

Regardless, this is definitely more incentive to urge families to refuse the test, and gives me great concern SED is being less than genuine in putting the survey forward to the public.”

Get the word out there that the 71.5% support NYSED is claiming for Common Core based upon the survey is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst.

Cuomo's having his Common Core "review" hearings held during school hours (or right after school) in an attempt to limit criticism and NYSED has created a Common Core survey that is long and complicated in order to rig the results.

But polls in New York show how deeply unpopular Common Core is (see here and here) - those NYSED couldn't rig.

Cuomo Appointees Planned Fake Bridgegate Memo

Andrea Bernstein at WNYC:

In the Bridgegate scandal, much has been made of what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew and when he knew it. But the other governor who also runs the Port Authority, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has long downplayed his knowledge of the scandal.

Documents filed Tuesday night by Bridgegate defendant Bill Baroni suggest that was a deliberate strategy.

Cuomo wasn't asked about the politically-motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge until three months after they occurred. "I don't know anything more basically than what was in the newspapers. This basically is a New Jersey issue," Cuomo told upstate radio station WCNY.

But now a new set of emails suggests that Cuomo's top appointees at the Port Authority were, two months before those remarks, actively discussing how to respond to the burgeoning scandal with top Cuomo aide Howard Glaser.

One of the suggestions? That Pat Foye, the Port Authority executive director, produce two different memos — one for the governor's office and a fake one that might some day be made public.

"How about the following — he types a detailed memo that he produces on his home computer, gives a hard copy to the 2nd floor and then type up a general memo for his files."

“Second floor” is Albany-speak for the floor of the state capitol where Cuomo and his top staff have their offices.

The email, penned by David Garten, the chief of staff to Port Authority Vice Chair Scott Rechler, goes on to say: "that way we have a thorough documented account, it's in the 2nd floor's hands...and then a general memo at the PA in case we get subpoenaed."


The newly-released emails suggests a level of communication with the governor's office about the scandal that Cuomo has never acknowledged. Glaser is described as speaking with both Foye and Rechler, though it's unclear what Glaser relayed to Cuomo.

Cuomo's press office did not respond to inquiries about what he learned from Glaser. Glaser also rebuffed email and phone inquiries. 

Two sets of memos, one real and one phonied up in case there's a subpoena.

Want to bet that's not the first time the geniuses in the Cuomo administration have come up with that strategy for something politically and/or criminally dicey?