Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Albany Pols Set To Impose So-Called Accountability Measures On Teachers - Where Is The Accountability For Them?

Governor Cuomo thinks there's not enough accountability for teachers and is pushing a "reform agenda" that looks to impose more - including linking 50% of a teacher's rating to test scores and forcing districts to bring in outside observers for classroom observations.

State Senate Republicans and their Independent Democratic Conference allies are expected to go along with Cuomo's plan, but Democrats and some Republicans in the Assembly were expected to mount an opposition to Cuomo's plan and fight it.

Alas, that was before the US Attorney Preet Bharara arrested Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges and threw the whole new legislative session into disarray.

In the last week Assembly Dems have been trying to rid themselves of Silver and get themselves a new speaker - something that seemed to have been finalized when it was reported that Shelly Silver would resign as speaker on Monday and Dems would hold a vote to elect a new speaker (expected to be Bronx Party boss Carl Heastie) a few hours later.

But now even that plan seems in jeopardy, as the NY Times published a look at Heastie that suggests he's got ethics issues of his own and was investigated by the Moreland Commission for his per diem expenses before it was shut down by Governor Cuomo in return for an on-time budget deal from Silver and State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

On top of that, WNBC 4 and the NY Post both reported that the US Attorney's office is investigating Dean Skelos for his outside income - the same issue that brought down Silver - and the second-in-command in the State Senate, Tom Libous, is under indictment for lying to the FBI.

It has further been reported that the US Attorney's office is investigating Governor Cuomo's sudden shut down of the Moreland Commission in return for a budget deal and while there has been no indication whether Cuomo is in Bharara's sights for corruption the way these legislators are, we do know that Cuomo had the Moreland Commission "pull back" subpoenas to his own donors when they were still investigating matters, so if the US Attorney's office picked up that string of investigation, Cuomo may be facing two separate criminal investigations (one for conspiracy for helping Silver and possibly Skelos cover up their crimes by shutting down Moreland, the second for covering up and obstructing investigations into his own donors.)

The politicians all talk about holding teachers and schools accountable while they steal themselves to satiation, gobble up millions in outside income, campaign donations, etc. in order to enrich themselves and enlarge their campaign war chests - all to maintain their power and privilege and impose their own agendas (really the agendas of their wealthy, powerful donors) on the people of the state.

Only in Governor Andrew Cuomo's New York can so many politicians either already under indictment for corruption or under investigation for said corruption talk with a straight face about holding other people accountable.

Dean Skelos Still Doesn't REALLY Deny Corruption Investigation

When NBC 4 first reported that State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was under investigation by the US Attorney's office for his outside income, a Skelos spokesperson did not return "numerous calls" from NBC 4 for comment.

Yesterday a Skelos spokesperson finally made a statement that essentially added up to a non-denial:

Skelos’ office issued a statement Friday calling the TV report “irresponsible” — and refusing further comment.

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further,” said Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.

While the NBC 4 report was vague and thinly sourced, as the Skelos flack noted, I pointed out that the NY Post independently confirmed the investigation into Skelos by the feds later in the day - meaning there were now two reports, independent of each other, reporting the same thing (NY Post report here.)

I also pointed out how the Skelos flack's saying Dean Skelos has never been contacted by anybody from the US Attorney's office doesn't prove that he's not being investigated by said US Attorney's office - all it means is, no one from that office has contacted Skelos.

So Skelos really issued a non-denial denial yesterday and then doubled down on that later in the day.

The NY Post staked out the Skelos home last night to get comment from him on the investigation, but instead got this:

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Friday laughed off news that the feds have launched a corruption probe into his outside income — the same issue that brought down longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week.
Skelos waved at reporters but declined comment as he left his Rockville Centre, LI, home Friday after kissing his wife, Gail.
Sources told The Post that US Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought charges against Silver and has vowed to clean up Albany, is looking at Skelos’ connections to various real-estate deals.

Skelos can put on the nice domestic scene all he wants, kissing his wife, waving to reporters and declining comment on the reports he's being investigated by the US Attorney's office - none of that means anything in the grand scheme of things.

I don't know whether Skelos is being investigated by the US Attorney's office or not, but I do know one thing - Skelos issued a non-denial denial yesterday through his flak, then doubled down on it yesterday evening with a domestic scene that feels as staged as the opening to The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Friday, January 30, 2015

What Exactly Is The Dean Skelos Denial Worth?

Last night WNBC 4 reported the following:

Federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income, according to people familiar with the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is taking a hard look at Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, the sources told NBC 4 New York.
Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
The revelation that Skelos is under investigation comes a week after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes. Silver denies the charges.
A spokesman for Skelos did not return numerous calls for comment Thursday.

The Skelos spokesman didn't return "numerous calls for comment" yesterday but the Skelos flack  went strong with a denial today:

Skelos’ office issued a statement Friday calling the TV report “irresponsible” — and refusing further comment.

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further,” said Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.

I agree that the WNBC 4 report is thinly sourced and after the mess WNBC 4 and Jonathan Dienst made with a September Bridgegate report (see here for that), we probably shouldn't rely completely on this story for evidence that Preet Bharara is looking into Skelos.

That's why it was interesting seeing this is the NY Post today:

The feds have launched a corruption probe into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside income – the same focus that led to the stunning arrest of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week, ­The Post confirmed Friday.

US Attorney Preet Bharara is looking at the powerful Nassau County pol’s connections to various real estate deals, sources said.

Skelos, the highest-ranking Republican in state government and one of the infamous “three men in a room” castigated by Bharara after Silver’s arrest, has not been charged with a crime.

He serves as a counsel for the law firm Ruskin, Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale, which specializes in ­real estate litigation among other areas.

The law firm is not a part of the investigation, according to WNBC/Channel 4, which first reported the story late Thursday.

In 2013, Skelos was paid between $150,000 and $250,000 for his employment as a lawyer with the firm, according to his financial disclosure documents.

Sources told The Post that Bharara launched the probe based on information provided by a tipster.
And other sources said Senate Republicans were nervous because Mike Avella, a lobbyist who is close to Skelos and other GOP senators, is partners with Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist who helped the feds bust Silver.

The Post article is confirming that "the feds have launched a corruption probe into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside income" and "Bharara launched the probe based on information provided by a tipster."

The Post story, independent of the WNBC 4 story, confirms that Bharara is indeed looking into Skelos and his outside income.

The Skelos spokesperson said:

“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further."

Does this mean they won't be commenting on the Post story that "confirms" Bharra is looking into Skelos and his outside income and the probe was launched based on information provided by a tipster.

Because while I agree the WNBC 4 story was a little vague, the Post article is much less so - it even indicates who the tipster who snitched on Skelos might be:

And other sources said Senate Republicans were nervous because Mike Avella, a lobbyist who is close to Skelos and other GOP senators, is partners with Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist who helped the feds bust Silver.

The Post article dispenses with the first part of the Skelos spokesperson denial - the accusation that the NBC 4 report is "thinly sourced" and "irresponsible."

As to the second, that Skelos can't be under investigation because "Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office," well, that one's laughable on the face of it.

Maybe somebody from the U.S. Attorney’s office would contact Skelos if they were looking into him - or maybe they wouldn't.

It's neither here nor there that Skelos says he hasn't been contacted by anybody from Bharara'a office.

It certainly doesn't prove that Skelos isn't under investigation by the US Attorney office, which is what the Skelos flack wants you to hear.

So the reality is, the Skelos denial is really worthless - it tries to undercut the WNBC 4 report but conveniently ignores the Post report that "confirms" Skelos is under investigation and it attempts to pull the wool over people's eyes by equating lack of contact from Bharara's office to Skelos as proof of Skelos' innocence.

Both pieces of the denial are jive, as is the sanctimonious finish they had:

"We won’t be commenting further."

Well, not until the morning of the arrest, at any rate.

But after that, I bet they'll be some comments.

US Attorney Preet Bharara Reported To Be Investigating State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos

When US Attorney Preet Bharara told us to "stay tuned" after he announced the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, he apparently meant it:

Federal investigators are looking into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' sources of income, according to people familiar with the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is taking a hard look at Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry, among other areas of inquiry, the sources told NBC 4 New York. 

Skelos, the highest ranking Republican in state government, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

The revelation that Skelos is under investigation comes a week after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes. Silver denies the charges.

A spokesman for Skelos did not return numerous calls for comment Thursday.

Skelos' deputy in the State Senate, Tom Libous, is already under indictment for lying to the FBI.

If Dean Skelos is arrested for corruption as Shelly Silver was, that will mean the top two Republicans in the State Senate would be under under indictment.

Think about that for a minute.

Top Dem in Assembly arrested, second in command in Senate GOP indicted, head of Senate GOP is under investigation for corruption.

What does this mean for Governor Cuomo, who shut down the Moreland Investigation on Public Corruption at the behest of Silver and Skelos in order to get an on-time budget last year?

If Moreland found incriminating information about Silver and Skelos, there's a pretty good chance Cuomo knew about that information because the Moreland executive director was feeding him everything that was happening.

If Cuomo shut down Moreland knowing that it had found incriminating info on Silver and Skelos, that opens Cuomo up to cover-up and conspiracy charges.

Ordinarily you'd think if the heads of both the Assembly and the State Senate are arrested and forced from power, that enlarges Cuomo's power as governor.

But not if the reason they're arrested and forced from power comes from information found by the Moreland Commission that Cuomo shut down.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Democratic Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins Tells Cuomo To Stop "Demonizing Teachers" - Cuomo's Education Reform Donors Hit Right Back

I was off grading Regents exams this morning, so I missed this story:

In a rare public break with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins blasted the “demonizing of our teachers” in a statement released on Thursday morning.
Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, called for increasing resources — aka more money — in the state budget for school districts and not “scapegoating teachers.”
“There has been too much demonizing of our teachers lately. As a former teacher, I understand firsthand the obstacles that many New York educators are facing and the resources they so desperately need in order to help our children,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Schools’ resources must be based on the school district needs. While we all agree that there are more improvements to be made to our education system, scapegoating teachers will not provide those improvements.”

Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, is knocking Cuomo’s education reform push as Speaker Sheldon Silver is being pushed out of the Assembly’s leadership post on Monday.

Uncertainty over the future of the Assembly’s leadership push is leading to concerns among education advocates that the governor’s proposals won’t have a strong opponent in the budget negotiations.

Just a few hours later, Cuomo's education reform campaign donors fired back at Stewart-Cousins:

Students First NY, a group supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform efforts, pushed back against Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’s statement this morning that called for an end to the “demonizing” of teachers.

In a statement, the group pointed out that in Yonkers, where Stewart-Cousins represents and lives, city school children are falling behind in math and reading.
“There’s a reason why the teachers’ union has spent $60 million in Albany over the past five years: to get politicians like Andrea Stewart-Cousins to put their interests over the hundreds of thousands of kids victimized by a failing system,” said the group’s Director of Organizing, Tenicka Boyd, in a statement. “In Yonkers, 4 out of 5 students cannot read or do math on grade level — they need a Senator, too. Governor Cuomo’s plan will give our best teachers $20,000 bonuses, will cover tuition to get the best and brightest into our classrooms, and will increase funding for all children. Governor Cuomo is fighting for kids; Senator Stewart-Cousins should too.”

Stewart-Cousins responded:

“Personal attacks and political sniping will not solve the deep-rooted problems in New York’s public education system. As a person who went to New York City Public Schools, sent my children to New York Public Schools and taught in New York Public schools, I will continue to stand up for New York’s children and urge common sense reforms that will help all New York students receive the quality education they deserve.”

Boy, it doesn't take long for Cuomo's education reform donors - the very wealthy individuals and groups who have given him millions in campaign donations - to respond for Cuomo, almost as if they're coordinating that response with Cuomo's office.

Not that Cuomo would ever coordinate with education reformers or anything - except for that time he helped organize a pro-charter rally in Albany to beat down NYC Mayor de Blasio over the charter co-location issue.

The joke of all this is, Shelly Silver's been arrested for taking millions in cash and allegedly pushing the interests of those he received that cash from.

How exactly is that different from what Cuomo's doing with education reform and his education reform donors?

Silver didn't disclose the money, but Cuomo hasn't disclosed all the money either - we still don't know who donated to the shadowy PAC that pushed Cuomo's interests, the Committee To Save NY.

What Silver's done is considered illegal, but Cuomo's perfectly fine taking millions from his ed deform donors and pushing their destructive plans for public education.

I dunno, I'm a little murky on what's the difference between illegal bribery and campaign donations, but apparently Cuomo isn't.

NYSUT Says It's Staying Out Of The Speaker's Race

From the Capital NY Morning Education email:

—Assembly education committee chair Cathy Nolan, a Queens Democrat, officially declared her candidacy for the speakership on Wednesday, touting her record on schools and women’s issues. (She would be the first woman in the role.) Capital’s Josefa Velasquez:

—Although labor groups are expected to influence the race, New York State United Teachers is staying out of it. “This is a matter for the Assembly to decide. We are taking no position,” spokesman Carl Korn told Capital on Wednesday.

Anybody believe NYSUT's claim?

Regents Grading

Off to trudge in the dark and the cold to some far-away school for the Regents grading extravaganza.

The snow threw a monkey wrench into some of the grading and there will be a lot of pressure on teachers to get these tests graded by Sunday so that the Spring Semester can start on time.

In comments, let everybody know what's going on at your grading site, how the site directors are handling things, how the grading is being handled.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Assembly Speaker's Race Gets Shake-Up

Which does this:

Cathy Nolan of Queens and Joe Lentol of Brooklyn announced today, along with Heastie.

Heastie was considered the front runner even with Wright looking to be speaker.

With Wright out and throwing his support to Heastie, that makes him that much more the front runner to be permanent speaker.

Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan Says She'll Run For Speaker

From State of Politics:

Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan is launching a campaign for speaker, she announced on Wendesday.

Nolan’s bid, if successful, would make her the first woman to lead the Assembly as speaker and the first woman to lead a majority conference in either house of the state Legislature.


The campaign for speaker is taking shape this week as Democrats move to have embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver step down from the post he’s held since 1994 after he was arrested on corruption charges last week.

Among the other candidates in the mix: Manhattan Democrat Keith Wright and Bronx lawmaker Carl Heastie. Rochester-area Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who becomes acting speaker Monday until Feb. 10, did not rule out running for speaker.


As chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, Nolan is a prominent supporter of the state’s teachers unions.

It will be interesting to see if the teachers union look to back her or Heastie for speaker.

I suppose much will depend on what's going on in the zeitgeist.

Cuomo Purposely Brings Chaos And Dysfunction To The School Budgeting Process

From the Capital NY Morning Email:

ED GROUPS: RELEASE SCHOOL AID DETAILS—Capital’s Jessica Bakeman: “An umbrella educational advocacy group representing teachers, administrators, business officials, superintendents, school boards, big-city school districts and parents wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo imploring him to release detailed breakdowns of each district’s state aid under his budget proposal. ... The Cuomo administration withheld the detailed charts outlining state aid for districts in order to pressure lawmakers into approving a series of aggressive education reform proposals. ... Cuomo’s refusal to release the school aid runs might go unnoticed by the general public, but in education circles, it was a dramatic message demonstrating the sincerity of his threat.

“School district leaders are disillusioned, hoping Cuomo will change his mind. If he doesn’t, they’ll likely miss a March 1 deadline to determine their proposed tax levies, and they’ll have hardly any time after the final state budget’s approval in early April to craft their local spending plans before facing voters’ scrutiny in May. … ‘This is not a matter of politics or even a policy debate,’ the letter said. ‘This is a matter of basic government function and an informed decision making process for our communities. The current situation is chaotic and dysfunctional.’”

Cuomo's intention (at least publicly) may be to play hardball over his reforms, but don't be surprised if another one of his intentions (not-so-publicly) is to make the budgeting process for school districts "chaotic and dysfunctional" in order to bring about the "breaking" of the public school monopoly he has repeatedly promised.

This is a governor who despises public education, public schools and public school teachers - it's not a mistake that he's currently in a showdown of his own making that will do lasting harm to public school districts.

Interim Speaker Joe Morelle Is Cuomo Ally, Friend To Business

Anybody hoping the Assembly replaces embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver, once a formidable counterweight to Governor Cuomo in budget negotiations and a decent friend to labor, with someone similar is NOT going to like the interim speaker:

ALBANY—For the next two weeks, at least, the New York State Assembly will have an acting speaker who is regarded by business interests as an ally.

Assemblymember Joseph Morelle, who is set to serve as interim speaker until Feb. 10, is widely viewed as a moderate in a chamber that has been a roadblock to the agendas of some business groups during the speakership of Sheldon Silver, whose positions were for the most part conventionally liberal.

Morelle, a Democrat from Rochester, “represents a thoughtful lawmaker that you can go have a conversation with on a specific issue,” said Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “You’re not dismissed immediately. For our agenda, that would represent change from what we’ve seen over a vast number of years.” 
Morelle is a prodigious fund-raiser, outraising every other Assembly candidate in the last election cycle despite having no opponents. The $585,149 in contributions he received outpaced Silver by nearly $55,000.
Of this money, almost six times as much came from businesses as from unions. Of the nearly $400,000 he received from businesses and their political action committees, nearly a third came from insurance companies or the financial sector, representing businesses he presumably developed relationships with while serving as insurance committee chair. An additional quarter are involved in real estate or health, representing other sectors that have frequent business before his former committee.

Morelle's pretty conservative and Cuomo would love to get him as replacement speaker for Silver.

Business views him as an ally.

He's raised six times as much money from business as labor.

That's enough for me - no to Morelle.

Unfortunately getting the "interim" gig might give Morelle a leg up on getting the job full-time,

He's still considered a long-shot - his closeness to Cuomo and his coming from Rochester do not help him in an Assembly full of Cuomo-haters and downstaters - but watch him very, very closely.

Given how fast things move these days in Albany (Hell, Cuomo just gave his budget address last Wednesday - doesn't that feel like forever ago?), you never know what might happen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

With Sheldon Silver Out As Speaker, Isn't It Time To Show Merryl Tisch The Door Too?

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was re-elected to the Board of Regents in April 2011 to a five year term.

Her patron, then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, announced her re-election in a release here.

Silver is facing charges on corruption and fraud and may soon be in prison.

He's also facing a coup from his Assembly Dems.

It was reported tonight that he will be forced from the speakership by Monday if he hasn't formally resigned by then.

Now Tisch is Shelly's pal, they know each other from the old days on the Lower East Side.

She's faced a lot of criticism for her handling of the Common Core roll-out, her oversight (or lack thereof) of the charter school approval process, and the reform agenda she has pushed on the state.

But she serves as Regents Chancellor because Silver wants her there and has used his enormous influence and power to keep her there.

Carol Burris wrote a blog piece back in December that concluded Tisch would remain in power despite her failures as chancellor because of this:

Given the current system of appointment, Merryl Tisch, who has wealth and deep political connections, will likely remain in power. She is married to billionaire James S. Tisch, the CEO of the Loews Corporation, and has been a friend since childhood of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls the appointments through the votes of the Assembly. The people of New York have no direct mechanism to have her removed.

Tisch still remains wealthy and married to that source of wealth - that part of the power dynamic hasn't changed.

But with her ally Silver disgraced and soon to be gone from power, there looks like there will be a real shot to show Merryl Tisch the door next year.

She was re-elected in April 2011 to a five year term - she'll face another election in April 2016.

We should start mobilizing opposition to her as Regents Chancellor now, parents and teachers, so that her Reign of Error at the Board of Regents can be ended.

Sheldon Silver Out By Monday, Joe Morelle To Be "Interim Speaker"

And so it looks like an era comes to an end soon:

My favorite reaction to the news:


It is said Carl Heastie is close to having enough votes to be the next speaker.

Here's a rundown on Heastie from Ross Barkan.

The other two names mentioned - Morelle and Keith Wright - are close to Cuomo, with Wright having shilled for Sheriff Andy during the campaign.

Wright also tried to stick the political shiv in Silver back in 2013.

Regents Exam Administration And Grading Updates

From the NYCDOE website:

Schools are closed today, Tuesday, January 27. Given the snow day, Regents exams will be rescheduled to Thursday. The subjects impacted are:
  • Global History and Geography 
  • Integrated Algebra
  • Comprehensive Testing in Writing (special education)
  • Comprehensive in Mathematics (special education)

And for grading:

It's all going to be shoved into Thursday and Friday, day and night, and over the weekend (except for ELA per session grading, which begins Wednesday night according to the schedule.)

Looks like per session may be offered for day graders on certain subjects to stay and grade after the workday is over.

One exception: History Regents exams will be graded in individual schools - the DOE calendar update has both day and night central grading of History Regents exams cancelled and teachers reporting to their own schools.

So apparently teachers are not to be trusted grading exams from their own schools - except for global history and U.S. history teachers, who will be grading exams in their own schools.

Cuomo Decision To Shut Down Subway For Snow - First Time Ever - Criticized As "Horrible, Political Decision"

It made no sense to me that Governor Cuomo decided to shut down all of the MTA last night before the blizzard that was forecast to hit.

We've had blizzards before, we'll have them again and NEVER in the history of New York City has the subway system been shut down because of snow.

That's 111 years of snow storms, blizzards and inclement winter weather - and yet, never had the subway system been shut down because of snow, not even during the 1947 blizzard (26.4 inches) or the 2006 blizzard (26.9 inches.)

Until Cuomo did it yesterday.

Except that the system actually didn't shut down because MTA workers had to keep the tracks clear - so they ran empty "ghost trains" all night.

Here's the story:

Subway trains still ran under New York City overnight despite being closed off to commuters.

Trains were heard going through a number of stations after services were suspended at 11pm on Monday, surprising travellers as they could not board them.

The preemptive decision by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA allegedly shocked transit workers because the trains need to run overnight so they can clear the tracks.

It was the first time the entire system has been shutdown purely because of the snow in its 111-year history. The action was taken before the brunt of the snowstorm hit the city.  

As a result of the state-wide road ban and the early cancellation of public transport, the Subway seemed the only viable way to get around the city through the night.

A source told The Brooklyn Paper: 'I think it’s horrible, purely political decision, not based on anything that’s needed. It seemed like cutting out a necessary lifeline unnecessarily.

'The underground lifeline should be open.' 

During a press conference on Monday, Governor Cuomo said: 'This blizzard is forecasted to be one of the worst this region has seen, and we must put safety first and take all the necessary precautions. Commuters and drivers need to get home before the storm completely cripples our transit networks and roads.'

Some of the lines on the system - including sections of the B and Q - are low-lying and outdoors, meaning a closure would be necessary.

However the remainder is underground or elevated, meaning snow may not have been an issue. 

The Brooklyn Paper reported the MTA was caught off guard by Cuomo's decision to close the subways:

A Twitter exchange between a Transportation Authority data scientist and a New York Post reporter appears to corroborate the agency being caught off guard by the governor’s announcement. Shortly before Cuomo’s bombshell, the transit wonk wrote that outdoor portions of the N, A, and Q, lines may be suspended. But when the reporter pointed out Cuomo was saying the plug would be pulled, the worker deferred to public relations.

Later, the data scientist lamented that stranded New Yorkers might resort to loosely regulated services such as Uber to catch now-illegal rides through the storm.

“Not a good plan from the governor,” Samuel Wong wrote. “The startup procedures will be fun.”
Following publication of this article, Wong wrote that the changes meant many workers would have to “stay overnight.”

A purely political decision by the governor to shut down the subway system - and a stupid one.

By all means, close the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels and commuter rails because of a blizzard warning.

But don't close the "lifeline" of the city - the underground and elevated trains that have NEVER been shut because of snow in their 111 year history.

Cuomo wants to look like he's the "Man in Charge," but quite frankly, he is a child who acts impulsively out of fear and impetuousness.

UPDATED - 9:10 AM: This subway shutdown is made even worse when you hear what the snow totals are around the area.

7.8 inches in Central Park.

I get that the models were all over the place before the storm, some showing a lot of snow, some showing very little making it west to the city.

And yes, public safety and precaution matters.

But given the uncertainty of the forecast and given that the subway system has NEVER been shut down for snow in 111 years - not even during two of the worst snowstorms in the history of the city - I think Cuomo's decision to shut it down last night was all about looking like he's in control and charge.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Not Much Of A Snowstorm So Far, But We Had A Big One In The NY Government

A storm of the political kind:

Snowmageddon looking like a bust so far, but a heavy storm for Shelly Silver.

Dems will meet tomorrow to try and choose a successor to Silver

NYCDOE District And Field Offices Are Opened Tomorrow Despite Impending Blizzard And Travel Ban (UPDATED - 7:55 PM)

So Governor Cuomo is instituting a travel ban starting tonight at 11 PM - all roads, bridges, tunnels will be closed to all but essential personnel and all mass transit will be shut down.

Tomorrow everybody is to safe at home except for emergency personnel like police, fireman, EMT's and NYCDOE employees assigned to district and field offices.

The UFT is not amused:

The UFT staff directors are sending the following email to UFT members who work in district and field offices:

Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Education has decided to close schools tomorrow, but has told central and field offices that they must remain open. The UFT vehemently disagrees with the DOE’s decision, and we are actively working on getting the city to reconsider.

The DOE’s longstanding policy, which we continue to fight, is as follows:

“Unless the Chancellor instructs otherwise, all central offices, and the offices of District 75 and 79 must remain open for regular hours on days when schools are authorized by the Chancellor to close or open late due to citywide emergency conditions or major stormy weather as staff must be in a position to provide essential information to parents and others.”

We wanted you to have accurate information as you make decisions tomorrow morning. We urge you to exercise caution about traveling into work.


LeRoy Barr & Ellie Engler
Staff Directors

I understand the need to get essential information out to parents, but I guess I just wonder, if the roads, bridges, tunnels and mass transit are all shut down tomorrow, how exactly does one get to a district or field office to dispense that essential information?

UPDATED - 7:55 PM: Even Cuomo's giving non-essential state employees a snow day tomorrow:

NYC Schools Closed Tuesday, 1/27 Regents Exams Re-Scheduled For Thursday 1/29

Straight from the DOE:

Schools will be closed on Tuesday, January 27. Given the snow day, Regents exams will be rescheduled to Thursday. The subjects impacted are:
  • Global History and Geography 
  • Integrated Algebra
  • Comprehensive Testing in Writing (special education)
  • Comprehensive in Mathematics (special education) 

I'm glad they're re-scheduling the exams rather than just cancelling them, but I would worry a little bit about the grading of these exams.

For that story, please see here.

Isn't there a better way to evaluate students, teachers and schools then a one day test given and graded during a week impacted by a blizzard?

Cuomo "On Edge" And "Obsessed With Fear" As Criminal Probe Into Albany Corruption Continues

Two interesting pieces about Cuomo's ethics problems out this morning, pre-blizzard, for your enjoyment.

First, Fred Dicker on how Cuomo is "freaked out, furious and obsessed with fear " over the Moreland investigations into corruption carried on by US Attorney Preet Bharara:

Gov . Cuomo is “freaked-out and furious” over the bombshell criminal charges dropped on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week — and “obsessed with fear’’ because of the ongoing federal corruption probe.

One source described Cuomo as “doubly enraged’’ by hard-driving Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s decision to bring the five criminal corruption charges against Silver just hours after the governor delivered his State of the State address — and then, less than 24 hours after that, to indict Albany’s “three men in a room’’ culture in which Cuomo is the lead player.

“Cuomo feels Preet just walked all over him,’’ said the source.

Knowledgeable insiders, including law-enforcement experts, said it wasn’t accidental that Bharara brought the charges against Silver just hours after Cuomo’s State of the State.

“Prosecutors have a lot of discretion, and when they time a high-profile arrest in a way that steps all over Cuomo’s speech, that’s the use of discretion for a purpose,’’ a former federal prosecutor told The Post.

And several sources described Cuomo — who along with his aides is being investigated by Bharara over the abrupt disbanding of the governor’s Moreland Act commission on public corruption — as “on edge’’ over Bharara’s ominous statement Friday that the public should “stay tuned’’ for more criminal charges to come.

“Andrew’s been working the phones day and night, staying up into the early morning hours, making hundreds of calls in one day trying to find out what the hell is going on,’’ a source close to the governor said.

Cuomo, who has retained a private lawyer, has enlisted several former federal and state-level prosecutors with ties to Bharara’s office including Steve Cohen, his former chief-of-staff, in an effort to find out Bharara’s next move, the sources said.

“He’s freaked-out, furious, and obsessed with fear, it’s like a nightmare for him. The whole narrative he laid out for his second term has been derailed by Bharara,’’ said a source in regular contact with the governor.

“The narrative has been taken over by Bharara and it’s all about Albany’s corruption, not Cuomo and his program for the state,’’ the source said.

State political circles are abuzz with speculation that Bharara is seeking to determine if Cuomo had any knowledge of Silver’s allegedly illegal outside income last spring when he agreed with Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos to fold the commission.

Next, Blake Zeff on why the Silver arrest has Cuomo "tongue-tied":

As everyone knows, the governor’s much-hyped Moreland Commission was looking into the issue of Silver’s outside income just as Cuomo disbanded it. And if U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara hadn't pressed the issue, none of the alleged criminal activity related to that income would have come to light at all.

If Cuomo does his usual thing, condemning the speaker's behavior and using it to talk about how badly he wants good government, he will be admitting that the investigatory work he shut down was important, and that his decision to disband it was premature (and potentially helped shield a crime).
What’s more, given that Cuomo is being investigated by the same prosecutor now looking to put Silver in prison, the governor will not want to give the speaker any additional incentive to provide information about others.

It's a real political dilemma.

Cuomo can't remain silent on Silver, who the governor was touting in a budget address just a day before the arrest as his partner in government. He'd be abandoning his public role as a reformer, risking his credibility on an issue that is vital to his carefully crafted brand.

But Cuomo can't really talk convincingly—or even coherently—about Silver's alleged misbehavior at this point, either.

Asked by the News editorial board how Silver’s arrest reflects on his decision to shut down the Moreland commission, Cuomo reportedly said, “If anything, it vindicates what happened.”

He suggested that the arrest showed that the best way for the investigation to proceed was always through the federal prosecutor’s office, rather than the state commission. Cuomo was trying to argue, in other words, that shutting down the investigation of an alleged crime helped get it uncovered.
This line, clearly, doesn't work. And at the moment, no matter what happens with Silver, it's not clear that any line will.

Cuomo likes to talk about ethics reform. It’s always worked for him, and has been a big, crucial part of his brand.

But as Cuomo learned after the Moreland Commission shutdown, when he twisted himself in knots trying to explain how his "independent" ethics body was actually no such thing, talking about the indefensible can be worse than not talking at all.

Many teachers who listened to Cuomo bring the rhetorical hammer down on us last Wednesday wondered about the political timing of Shelly Silver's arrest the next morning, given that Silver was expected to be the only (slight) impediment to Cuomo's agenda.

It seemed too convenient that in the year Cuomo is shoving through an aggressive education reform agenda even though he won an anemic re-election and doesn't have the same political muscle he's had in the past, the biggest impediment to that agenda got arrested on corruption charges just as the legislative session was getting under way.

But stories leaking out today suggest Cuomo is not happy at all with Bharara's stealing his thunder last week by arresting Silver the day after his State of the State/budget address and is worried that Silver's arrest may mean problems for him down the line.

Dicker's got it out for Cuomo, so he's deliberately using phrases like "on edge," "freaked-out and furious" and "obsessed with fear" to try and damage Cuomo further than he already has been by seeing Silver arrested on corruption charges related to the Moreland Commission Cuomo himself shut down in a deal with Silver for an on-time budget.

Nonetheless, as Blake Zeff points out in his piece, Cuom's relative silence over the Silver matter shows just how troubled he is over it.

Is Cuomo Thinking About What He's Saying About This Evening's Pre-Blizzard Commute?

Governor Cuomo last night:

Gov. Cuomo echoed those concerns, warning commuters to stay home Monday in a statement made Sunday as the monstrous storm tracked an unfamiliar route across the Midwest.

“As a result, roads including the Thruway, I-84 and the Long Island Expressway, and public transit networks including the LIRR, PATH, Metro-North Railroad, and MTA subways and buses, may be closed ahead of the evening commute,” Cuomo announced Sunday night.

 From the NYC OEM:

Is Cuomo thinking about any of this?

I understand safety is a priority and I know he's still smarting from the mess on the Thruway when he didn't close roads in time, people got stuck in the snow for more than a day, and leveled their criticism at him.

But the weather reports have been quite clear - light snow during the day followed by heavy snow at night.

That's what the models were showing last night, that's what the forecast remains this morning - 1-3 inches of snow during the day, heavy snow later in the night.

If NYC schools are opened, then Regents exams are going to be given.

Students and staff will be expected to be in school - students to take the exams, teachers to proctor the exams.

The afternoon exams don't end until after 4 PM.

How does this work if Cuomo shuts down streets, highways and trains BEFORE the afternoon commute?

How does this work if the governor even suggests this might happen?

Seriously, is the governor thinking about any of this?

Is he coordinating with Mayor de Blasio and the NYCDOE?

I have to admit, I have students scheduled to take the ELA Regents exam at 12:45 PM, so I'm a little anxious about all of this.

I also have to admit that I'm made even more anxious by the fact that Governor Cuomo wants to fire me based on my Regents test scores, saying that he believes these are an "objective" measure of my teaching skill.

I've already covered the mess that is going to be the grading of these Regents exams - you can read that here.

Now Cuomo's making the mess worse by saying he's going to shut streets, highways and trains down BEFORE the evening commute even as the NYCDOE is opening schools and giving the Regents exams in both the morning and afternoon.

Sheldon Silver To "Cede Power" To Five Senior Assembly Members (UPDATED)


ALBANY—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is set to cede power to five of the chamber's senior members, two people briefed on his plans told Capital.

Silver, a Democrat from lower Manhattan, was charged on Thursday with accepting $6 million in what prosecutors said were “kickbacks” disguised as legal fees in exchange for official favors. He is set to huddle on Monday with his chamber's 100-plus member Democratic conference, which would have to approve the proposal.

Silver became engaged in talks about stepping aside late Sunday, the people said and the Daily News reported, and arrived at a plan to tap the quintet to help handle some of the responsibilities of leading the state's lower house.

The group would include majority leader Joe Morelle of Rochester, as well as Denny Farrell of Harlem, Joe Lentol of Brooklyn, Cathy Nolan of Queens and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.


It's unclear which member would be responsible for what duties.

Each of the sources described the arrangement as temporary, with Silver retaining the option to reassume his powers. In an email, Silver spokesman Mike Whyland said the speaker would remain in place.

What affect will this arrangement have on the education reform agenda Governor Cuomo wants to impose on the state?

Hard to say that a quintet of senior members would be any less effective at fighting back against Cuomo than a Sheldon Silver weakened by scandal and indictment, but that's assuming these people want to fight back.

At least one of these five - Morelle - is a close ally of Cuomo.

You can bet Cuomo will look to take advantage of the circumstances here to expand his power and influence in a legislative session where he was expected to have much less - at least in the Assembly.

Is it an accident that in a year when Assembly members were pissed at Cuomo and sick of his "My Way Or The Highway" governing style their leader is arrested on corruption charges, the Assembly is thrown into disarray, and the governor's power and influence is expanded exponentially just as he's looking to push through an aggressive agenda after being re-elected with anemic vote totals?

UPDATE - 8:08 AM: Consensus seems to be Silver's "ceding power" to five subordinates is him actually keeping power, running things from behind the scenes.

We'll see if this maneuver works or if the pressure on him to step down, growing all weekend as the tabloids hit him daily with barrages of stories, continues to mount.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NYC Schools WILL Be Opened On Monday 1/26, Regents Exams WILL Be Given

The latest on the impending inclement weather and it's impact on NYC schools:

This sounds like the right call to me.

Light snow is expected tomorrow during daylight hours, the heavy snow isn't expected to start until the nighttime.

We'll see if the storm plays out as the models are predicting.

But for now, school is on for Monday 1/26 and the Regents exams WILL be given.

What Happens To Regents Exams And Regents Grading If There's A Blizzard This Week?

UPDATE - 11:00 AM:: Getting a lot of hits on this post, with people looking for information on this afternoon's English Regents exam.

The exam WILL be given this afternoon AS SCHEDULED.

Only 1-3 inches of snow are expected to fall during the day today.

Right now, there are only flurries falling in Manhattan and there has been no noticeable accumulation of snow.

So, to repeat:

This afternoon's English Regents exam WILL be given AS SCHEDULED.

Stay tuned to your favorite news outlet for what happens tomorrow and Wednesday.

Original Post

Here's the forecast for Monday-Wednesday:

Lucky us, it's high stakes Regents exam week here in NY State, so this forecast, if accurate, is going to cause major disruptions for students and teachers.

The likelihood is that the Regents exams on Tuesday 1/27 will be cancelled due to snow, the exams scheduled for Monday 1/26 will go on as scheduled, though with snow already expected to be falling, with a diminished student turnout.  Hard to say what happens Wednesday 1/28, but there's the potential for impacts that day as well.

In any case, there looks like there will be major disruptions to the testing schedule regardless and this will have major consequences on both students and teachers.

Students who have spent time preparing for the ELA exam, the Global History exam, the U.S. History exam, Integrated Algebra exam - they're all looking at major snow impact this week.

I'm an ELA teacher and have been preparing my students for the ELA exam.

Chances are, the ELA Regents exam will go off as scheduled, since it's set for 12:45 PM tomorrow before the major snow onslaught.

There will be fewer students at the test, however, despite the brunt of the storm not expected until nighttime.

Some students will hear "Blizzard Warnings" on the TV and stay home, thinking that the test has been cancelled or that they'll cancel it for themselves since the weather's supposed to be so bad.

Nonetheless, we'll probably have a decent turnout tomorrow (especially because ELA teachers warned students that unless they hear from Mayor de Blasio that school is cancelled, they MUST come for the test), with just a few students staying home due to the weather.

Global History and Integrated Algebra teachers, however, are looking at a cancelled test on Tuesday and there may still be impacts to the schedule on Wednesday for the US History exam.

What does this mean for teachers whose evaluations are based on these tests?

Well, at the best of times, the grading of Regents exams are problematic.

Because teachers no longer grade exams in their own schools, the tests have to be delivered to grading centers around the city where teachers grade them both during the workday and for per session money after school hours.

I've graded exams the past few years both during the workday and for per session.

The ELA grading is usually pretty good because the test comes early in the Regents schedule and there's plenty of time for grading.

Global and US History Regents exams are often graded under duress, however, because they come slightly later in the schedule and there's a lot going on during the grading.

Last year, I saw a "Hurry Up" offense on the Global and US History Regents at the testing center that  forced teachers to run through stacks of tests as late as the night before the last day of school.

The grades were literally due the next day and some were for students who were supposed to graduate and needed the US History Regents score beforehand.

The teachers and the administrative staff at the center did the best job they could, under trying circumstances, to run through the grading as quickly as they could, but let's face it, that kind of "Hurry Up" on the grading CANNOT be good for accuracy.

So again, at the best of times, some of the Regents grading can be, er, shoddy.

Now let's add a major snowstorm to the mix - tests that still go off on Monday will have to be graded by the end of the week before the start of the new semester next week.

The ELA tests will be finished by Monday, they're scheduled to be picked up on Tuesday, delivered to the testing centers where teachers will arrive on Wednesday and work through the week grading them.

If the weather report is right, Tuesday's going to be a mess, there will be no picking up of exams and delivering them anywhere, and Wednesday may still be a bit of a mess, so while I would think schools will be opened then, I'm skeptical things will be back to normal.

That means the ELA exams won't get a serious day of grading until Thursday - leaving just two days of workday grading for the exams and four days of per session grading after school hours.

I guarantee you grading of the ELA exam will be done in a "Hurry Up" offense, with a lot of pressure placed on teachers and administrators to get the tests graded and the scores out to schools so they can get their Spring Semesters set.

That's the impact the storm may have on ELA.

The rest of the testing subjects?

If the storm is as bad as the map shows, God help them.

Given the importance of these tests to students (who cannot graduate without passing them and cannot get into a CUNY four year college without hitting the college readiness marks on the ELA and math tests), given the emphasis that is now put on test scores for teacher evaluations, with Governor Cuomo looking to make the scores count for 50% of a teacher's rating, is this the best way to handle Regents exam grading?

The governor and his education reformers like to make believe these test scores are sacrosanct, as if they've been delivered from the mount by Moses himself, that they are "objective" measures of student performance (and thus, teaching skill.)

The truth is, they are subjectively graded by teachers often under the duress of time constraints and long grading hours - that's at the best of times.

Throw in a major disruption like a potential blizzard and what you have is a chaotic mess that will result in scores that aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Governor Cuomo Is Responsible For Higher College Costs At SUNY

Man, sometimes even the NY Post gets stuff right.

Take this editorial on college loans and the Cuomo proposal to have NY State pick up some of the loan for a couple of years for college graduates who remain in NY State but are make less than $50K a year:

On one thing President Obama and Gov. Cuomo are agreed: The answer to high tuition and crushing student debt is more money from the government.

Problem is, it’s precisely government dollars that are driving up the price of college tuition at a rate far faster than general inflation.

Right now, colleges have no skin in the loan game: If a kid drops out before earning his degree, or if she earns a degree that is worthless and so can’t get a job that pays enough to let her pay off her loans, that’s terrible for her.

But the school has already been paid.

The solution the Posties propose?

If you want to lower college costs, don’t just throw more money at the schools. Ensure the universities have some skin in the game — e.g., by forcing them to pick up part of the loans for a kid who fails out.

And make ’em work for their customers by demonstrating why their degrees are worth what they’re charging for them.

I don't know exactly how you do that second thing, since so many of the second and third tier private schools charge a LOT of money for a degree of dubious value that could be gotten from a state school for much less.

But I do know that making the schools pick up some of the loan costs of students who drop out might make these schools think twice about a) tuition costs and b) loading students up with loans.

But the best way to hold down college costs and give students a quality education is for NY State to provide MORE state aid to SUNY.

Under Governor Cuomo, the percentage of SUNY costs covered by state aid has dropped and the percentage of SUNY costs covered by tuition has increased.

Cuomo has instituted five years of tuition increases that will result in students paying more than 25% higher tuition and fee costs from before he became governor.

I posted this when Cuomo first released his loan debt relief plan and I want to post it again:

Governor Cuomo is the reason why SUNY costs are so high in NY State for college students.

I think the Post is right that colleges ought to have some skin in the game when it comes to student loans.

But I also think Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature ought to be providing more state aid to SUNY in order to provide opportunities for an affordable, quality education to all.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Question For Governor Cuomo About My Teacher Evaluation Rating

Let's say I've been getting my students ready for a Regents test next week, doing the usual job I do to have them knowledgeable about the material that will be tested and skilled to carry out the test tasks, and then a major snowstorm hits on the test day.

Let's say school isn't cancelled because Chancellor Farina thinks it's a beautiful day but 60% of my students stay home from the test because the snow is deep enough for them to, in former Mayor Bloomberg's immortal Boxer Day Blizzard words, "Take in a show."

Will this kind of snow event be taken into account when my VAM is being calculated by the geniuses at NYSED and they see 60% of my students didn't show up for the test or should I start making plans now for my next career in fast food or as a Walmart greeter?

Because the weather is starting to sound like it's going to be a tad unsettled next week and some unlucky students and unlucky teachers may have a major snowstorm cause major headaches on the very day there's a major Regents exam that has major consequences for both.

If we're going to make test scores the be-all and end-all of everything, you can see how something like a snowstorm cancelling school (as happened some years ago with the US History Regents) or just causing some students to stay home could create a huge mess for teachers linked to student test scores.

I mean, you can see that, can't you, Governor?

Or is a major snowstorm the fault of "bad teachers" too?

NY Times: Cuomo Is Wrong To Say New York Schools Are In Crisis, Teachers Are To Blame

Great piece in the Times that exposes Cuomo's argument that New York's schools are in "crisis" and New York's teachers are to blame as hyperbolic and hollow:

The best yardstick by which to compare achievement of elementary school students in different states is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, which tests samples of public and private school students in a number of subjects, including fourth- and eighth-grade math and English. In those subjects, New York students are consistently right in the middle, scoring perhaps a few points above or below the national average. (This is true both for students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, and for students who do not.)

On graduation rates, New York looks a little worse, with only 77 percent of students graduating from high school, compared with a national average of 81 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But New York requires students to pass Regents exams to graduate from high school; some states offer no similar hurdle. And New York does better than the national average on the percentage of high school graduates attending college: 68.9 percent compared with a national average of 62.8 percent.

Of course, demographics play a role in shaping each state’s educational performance. According to the center, New York is very close to the average in terms of school-age children living in poverty, 22 percent compared with 21 percent.

Looking at another test taken by students around the country, the SAT, New York lags slightly behind the national average in the number of students who reach the College Board’s college and career readiness benchmark. However, the group of students taking the SAT in New York appears to be somewhat poorer than the national pool, with 32 percent using a fee waiver, compared with only 24 percent nationally.

American students as a whole generally receive middling scores on international assessments compared with students in other countries. A 2011 Harvard study that compared proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests with performance on the Program for International Student Assessment showed New York falling somewhere between Spain and Latvia, and behind roughly 30 other countries, on the percentage of students who were proficient in math. In reading, the state compared more favorably, between France and Switzerland and behind about 10 countries in the percentage of students who were proficient.

In any case, experts said it would be hard to justify describing the situation in New York as a crisis, unless persistent mediocrity itself were a crisis. “Since the early ’90s, New York scored about average, and nothing’s changed,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, of the NAEP scores. “If New York schools are in a state of crisis, they’ve been in a state of crisis for 20 years. Most people like their state to score near the top, not the middle,” he added. “Maybe that’s the dire situation.”

As for the part about teachers to blame, Aaron Pallas takes that argument apart in the Times article:

Aaron M. Pallas, a professor of sociology and education at Columbia, said he objected to the governor’s use of the student test scores, noting that they came on new, tougher tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards.
“Numbers like these are a bit shocking,” Professor Pallas said. “But, of course, they’re also the result of a political process. Three or four years ago those numbers were 80 percent. And teachers have not gotten worse.”


 Asked how he would characterize New York’s overall performance, Mr. Pallas said: “I think that everyone would likely agree that we want students to leave high school being able to do a lot more than they can right now. But the characterization of this as a crisis is a political argument.”

Indeed, this is a political argument Cuomo is making - and it's an absurd one.

This week he called New York's public schools "the single greatest failure of the state."

Sure, there is work to be done in education to help students succeed both in school and after graduation, but to call the system the "single greatest failure of the state"?

A commenter at Perdido Street School says the governor is wrong about that:

I thought that the Cuomo interference and bullying of the Moreland commission was the "single greatest failure of the state", namely the failure to clean up the widespread corruption in Albany. By the way, Cuomo, why did your campaign pay $ 100,000 to your criminal defense lawyer?

With Assembly Speaker Silver carted out in handcuffs on corruption charges this week, a direct result of the Moreland investigation that Cuomo shut down in order to get a budget deal last year, it would seem the governor ought to be turning his hyperbolic words toward himself.

Instead, making another political argument, he claimed that shutting down the Moreland investigation and forcing US Attorney Preet Bharara to pick up the investigations actually vindicates his handling of the matter.

That's the kind of political argument Governor Cuomo likes to engage in - NY schools are in crisis and "need dramatic reform."

The Moreland Commission criminal investigations of politicians that he closed down in order to get a budget deal, thus saving the bacon of who knows how many corruption pols in Albany?

Great victory.

And I haven't even got to the part about how the governor made sure the Moreland Commission did not investigate his own donors, had at least one subpoena readied for his donors "pulled back" to keep them from being investigated or tampered with the Commission both during it's operation and afterward so that the US attorney had to warn him publicly to stop doing it.

If anything is in crisis in New York State, it's Albany politics.

That, however, Cuomo doesn't want to do anything about because he's at the center of that crisis, helping it along, making it worse, day by day by day.

Friday, January 23, 2015

NYSUT President Magee Calls Cuomo's Tying Of School Funding To Passage Of His Reforms "Criminal"

From State of Politics:

New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom knocked Cuomo and his administration for withholding the school aid runs — a line-by-line accounting how much school districts are projected to receive in the budget proposal traditionally released when the spending plan is announced — because much of the $1.1 billion spending increase is tied to the governor’s reforms.

“The governor has declared a war,” Magee said. “He’s declared a war on every single teacher in New York state.”

It’s potentially problematic for school districts considering they have to have their budgets before voters in May; the state’s budget is due March 31.

“It just again tells you the governor doesn’t understand how the school districts work,” she said. 
“It’s criminal for the governor to try to strong-arm his agenda through this way,” Magee added.

Strong words from Magee - all well and good.

Now she should back those strong words up with a barrage of ads telling New Yorkers what will happen if Cuomo gets to tie 50% of teacher evaluations to student test scores.

She can start that process by running an ad featuring Sheri Lederman, the award-winning teacher who was rated "ineffective" by NYSED on her test component via their value-added algorithm even though Lederman's students all passed their state tests and scored well above the state average.

She can tell New Yorkers that Lederman is suing the State Education Department over this rating and that so far, NYSED has been unable to provide an explanation for why Lederman was rated "ineffective" even though her students passed the state tests with scores well above the state average.

She can note that if Cuomo gets his way, many more teachers will be rated "ineffective" via an inscrutable NYSED value-added measurement algorithm that nobody from SED or the Regents seems able to explain.

And she can end the ad with Lederman's principal telling New Yorkers that if Cuomo gets his way on the rating reforms, one more "ineffective" rating on the inscrutable, unexplainable NYSED VAM will have Lederman fired and her students losing a highly effective, well-respected teacher.

Strong words on an NPR radio show are one thing.

Backing those strong words up with an effective PR campaign to alert the public to what Cuomo is doing and what the consequences will be if he gets his way is something else.

Strong words from the union president without the effective PR campaign that seeks to win the public over are, in the end, meaningless.

Teachers Unions Say Silver Arrest Has Little Effect On Them

Buried in the Jessica Bakeman Capital NY piece about the Sheldon Silver arrest and the effect on education policy is this:

Teachers' unions that were expecting a difficult session even with Silver’s support said his arrest wouldn’t impact their ability to fight for their priorities.

In short,they figure they're losing no matter whether Silver's there or not.


Cuomo Attacks Teachers Again On Thursday

And so, the assault don't end from Governor Cuomo:

ALBANY — A passionate Gov. Cuomo upped his war with the teacher unions on Thursday, charging that they represent themselves — not the students.

During an appearance before the Daily News Editorial Board, Cuomo said the only way change will come to a broken education system is if the public is better informed.

“If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.
“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it.”

Cuomo referred to the teacher unions and the entrenched education establishment as an “industry” that is more interested in protecting the rights of its members than improving the system for the kids it is supposed to be serving.

“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.
“This was a program to educate kids.”

And then comes this:

He said he openly disagreed with a teacher union member who said he represents the students.

“No, you don’t,” Cuomo said he told the person. “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”

OK, I got it:

Cuomo - the guy on the hedge fundie, charter school supporter payroll - represents students.

The Cuomo assault on teachers continues unabated, though Cuomo says he doesn't hate teachers:

“I respect teachers,” he said. “My mother was a teacher . . . I want to treat them with more respect than they have now, but it has to be on the performance and the merits.”

Let's see, he spends his days calling teachers selfish, self-interested incompetents and sex criminals and he wants to re-do the profession to make it into an at-will job based on student test scores, but he "respects" teachers.

Uh, huh.

That's the kind of "respect" I can do without.

If he gets his way, people in New York will see this in the end.

We're already seeing fewer young people go into teaching the last few years as the War on Teachers has ratcheted up.

Can't imagine the "respect" Cuomo wants to give us in the form of tenure, evaluation and 3020a reforms is going to change that.

The Fallout From The Silver Arrest

Some prognostication this morning over what effect the Sheldon Silver arrest has on Albany.

First, the effect on Cuomo, from the Post:

Gov. Cuomo’s decision to pull the plug on his corruption-fighting Moreland Commission panel will have repercussions far beyond Thursday’s indictment of Sheldon Silver, insiders said.

The move, some said, raised questions about Cuomo’s commitment to rooting out Albany’s pay-to-play culture and could harm his efforts to cast himself as an anti-corruption reformer.

“It has a huge impact. [US Attorney] Preet [Bharara] confirmed that this is a result of the Moreland investigation, and that begs the question whether or not the governor knew about this information when he decided to disband the panel. That has political and legal implications,” GOP consultant Jessica Proud told The Post.

Also from the Post, the potential effect on the budget:

A Cuomo ally predicted the arrest would stall the state budget.

“It f- -ks up the whole session. Who are you dealing with now? The budget is due in a month and a week . . . The question is who is in charge of the Assembly?” the official said.

From Jessica Bakeman, the effect on education policy:

Silver is a key player in the negotiation of the state budget and policy as well as in the election of members to the State Board of Regents. The uncertainty over leadership in the Assembly could enhance the power of Cuomo and Senate Republicans.

Cuomo took an aggressive position during his budget and policy address Wednesday, threatening to withhold a significant funding increase for schools if lawmakers don’t approve his controversial reform proposals, such as an amendment to the state’s teacher-evaluation system that would increase the ratings’ reliance on standardized testing.

Silver would have been in a particularly strong position to push back against the governor’s agenda, working toward compromises that are more palatable to his conference and their union allies. Known as a master negotiator, Silver is one of the “three men in the room” during budget talks, along with Cuomo and the leader of the Senate.


Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a conservative Republican from Rensselaer County who opposes Cuomo’s education proposals, said teachers should be “pretty nervous right now that the governor is going to be able to jam through whatever he wants without much pushback from the Assembly.

“[Silver] is in such a compromised position, how is he going to push back against this governor?” McLaughlin said. “So it strengthens the governor’s hand in negotiations.”

 And for the government in Albany, from the NY Times:

The events this week have shaken that sense of security and raised the possibility that Mr. Silver, the quintessential capital insider, could reveal his own colleagues’ misdeeds to federal prosecutors in exchange for leniency.

For the state’s orbit of lobbyists, advocates, elected officials and industry executives with a stake in the productivity and product of the Legislature, Mr. Silver’s potential diminution, if not exit, carries enormous consequences.

“It’s chaos,” said Richard L. Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman from Westchester County. “So much is at stake for the public.”

“Any interest group whose political strategy depends on the strength of the Assembly, they have to be concerned,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Members who counted on Mr. Silver’s support in the coming session could find themselves facing question after question about the allegations.

And groups that rely on the smooth functioning and static leadership of the Assembly worry that the body could descend into the infighting and disarray that have made the State Senate a punch line for late-night comedians.

As one real estate executive put it on Thursday, “Shelly is the devil we know.

More later on how the teachers unions are feeling about the Silver arrest.