Cuomo is known and respected up to now as a take-no-prisoners tough guy, but his political antennae seem corrupted. His picking on the teachers in New York state is dumber than dumb. It appears that he fell in with a crowd of rich potential funders who are always yelling about “educational reform.” Maybe he wanted their money and he became a fierce charter school advocate and then adopted positions which then threatened the hell out of the teachers who are underpaid and overworked. Their tenure is one of the few things they do have going for them, and however Cuomo meant it, the teachers saw him as looking to evaluate them with an eye toward firing them. These are usually people who want nothing to do with Albany politics, but they sure got a wakeup call. I talk to them all the time and they are angrier than I have ever seen them.
Zephyr Teachout has an excellent idea how teachers can take that anger and do something productive with it:
Liberal activist Zephyr Teachout is touring New York starting tonight in Syracuse to try to recruit teachers and women to run for public office in New York.
Teachout, the Fordham Law School professor who ran against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary last year, said the education policy battles at the state Capitol should spur teachers and parents to run for political office so their voice can be better heard.
“The focus is getting more people into the political process, and the focus here is on teachers and women,” Teachout said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “If there’s a central thrust, it’s educators and parents.”
Teachout, who lives in Manhattan, is partnering with the union-backed Working Families Party and the New York State United Teachers union on the effort.
She said the massive testing opt-out movement in New York in April, as well as protests to new teacher evaluations show that education advocates can play an increasingly important role in politics — on the state and local levels.
“I don’t think most people go into teaching in order to run for office, but they didn’t go into teaching to protest either,” Teachout said. “And they’ve become this incredible, powerful political force, and my hope is to engage some of those teachers who are political and hopefully get them elected and have more formal political power.”
Now electing teachers to political office isn't guaranteed to make politics more amenable to public education teachers - after all, former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (now under indictment for making illegal payments to someone he allegedly molested back in the 70's) and Independent Democratic Caucus head Jeff Klein are both former teachers and neither are what I would term "teacher- or public education-friendly" in their political views.
But in general, having teachers run for political office is a terrific idea and certainly there are many teacher leaders out there who would make excellent candidates.
The same goes for parent activists in the opt-out movement.
Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, both professors, ran in 2014 for governor and lieutenant governor respectively and put in very respectable showings.
Had Teachout gotten the Working Families Party ballot line for the general election, she would have done some serious damage to Andrew Cuomo, taking him well under the 50% line in his race against GOP candidate Rob Astorino, but even in the Democratic primary she did serious damage, winning 23 counties to Cuomo's 29.
Cuomo's campaign was so worried that Tim Wu had momentum against Kathy Hochul that they called out Randi Weingarten and Bill de Blasio to robocall for her, turning the contest toward Hochul for good.
Nonetheless, the Teachout/Wu campaigns of 2014 served notice that many Dems were not happy with Andrew Cuomo and his policies and they can serve as models for educator and parent campaigns going forward.