New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a PAC formed by the reform group StudentsFirstNY, spent $4.2 million aiding Republican candidates.
Of the seven competitive races in which New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany invested, six yielded Republican victories
In January, Republicans will have control of the 63-seat upper chamber with 32 seats. The party now controls the chamber with the help of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of five breakaway Democrats led by Senator Jeff Klein.
StudentsFirstNY declared victory over teachers unions in a memo to supporters on Wednesday.
“Six out of the seven candidates supported by New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany (NYBA) won, giving Republicans a clear majority in the New York State Senate,” said the memo, written by the group’s executive director, Jenny Sedlis, among others. “The last Senate’s leadership, along with the Governor, consistently stood up for what’s right for public school students, which is why [New York State United Teachers] and their allies put a target on their backs. For years, NYSUT has been the only game in town, but we stood up to them and won.
“The teachers union should not have a monopoly on state education policy,” Sedlis' memo said. “That position has been a direct result of their electoral hegemony. No longer.”
Having been a critic of the AFT/UFT/NYSUT political strategy for a while now, I'm going to yet come around with another "Told You So!"
Last week AFT President Randi Weingarten kept pushing the idea that it doesn't matter what Cuomo wants to do to public schools or teachers if the Democrats control both houses in the legislature.
She was saying this even as she was defending Cuomo's anti-public school comments as "campaign rhetoric."
Now with the election over and the union strategy of re-taking the State Senate for Dems in tatters, I ask the all-knowing Randi Weingarten "Now what?"
Deformers wants the charter cap increased or lifted.
They want NYC mayoral control changed to benefit charter schools.
They want the APPR to be changed to make it more punitive.
And they now have a governor and a Republican State Senate (joined probably by the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference) to do it for them.
The truth is, even had the union-backed Dems taking back the Senate, they STILL might have given the ed reformers what they want.
The AFT/UFT/NYSUT political strategy is a mess and the only thing it seems to be successful at is giving Weingarten and her fellow union leaders the opportunity to look like they're doing something against ed deform while not really doing anything against ed deform at all.
The cynic in me wonders if that isn't truly the point of the strategy.
Let's be honest here - Randi Weingarten cares NOTHING for teachers, schools or the teaching profession.
She cares only for her own career trajectory, power and compensation.
The same can be said for the leaders at the UFT and the NYSUT.
Having watched these so-called union leaders over the last fourteen years, I have seen them lose battle after battle to the deformers, all the while claiming that critics of their strategy are naive waifs who don't understand Big Time Politics.
I suppose since the AFT and UFT didn't take any aim at Cuomo this campaign season, they still have a stool at his table - but so far the access that stool brings has gotten us an APPR teacher evaluation system that unfairly rates teachers, a tax cap that starves schools, a lifting of the charter cap and a whole lot of nasty rhetoric out of the governor about teachers and schools.
With Cuomo promising to break the public school "monopoly" next term and put "real sanctions" in his teacher evaluation system, things stand to get a lot worse before they get any better.
And you can bet the unions' strategy in combating this won't change any - we'll continue to hear about the importance of access (which is why we never fight ed deformers like Obama or Cuomo), we'll continue to hear about the importance of retaking the legislature (even though Dems in the legislature are often as anti-teacher or anti-public school as Republicans), we'll continue to hear about the need to collaborate with the ed deformers so that we look like nice people to the general public.
All the while the ed deformers continue to rack up victory after victory against public schools and the teaching profession in both the political arena and the courts.
Maybe, just maybe, after years of losing every battle to the deformers, it's time for another political strategy, one that includes not collaborating with politicians out to destroy the public school system, putting forth our own political candidates who we know will be pro-schools and pro-teachers, retaliating against politicians who sell us out by primarying them, and putting forth a vision of public schools that does not use the ed deform narrative of "failing schools" and "bad teachers" as its frame.
If we had union leaders who truly cared about their members, we might get some semblance of that strategy.
Alas, we do not have those kinds of leaders.
Instead we have collaborators who do their best at fighting windmills and other symbols while shrinking from every real and meaningful fight with deform politicians.
Even worse, we have union leaders who back these deform politicians just because they have a (D) after their names and tell us this is the best we can do in the political environment we now have.
God forbid our union leaders should try and change that political environment with a new political strategy.