ALBANY—A vote by a state teachers' decision to overhaul its leadership may be a sign of trouble for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New York has already seen two education leaders ousted this year in elections that are rarely contested and typically undramatic.
Richard Iannuzzi, a nine-year incumbent president of New York State United Teachers, was defeated by a comfortable margin Sunday, and James Jackson, a member of the State Board of Regents, was pressured by lawmakers to resign last month; both are casualties of an emotional controversy that has erupted among parents and teachers and mobilized lobbies with a variety of political goals.
Next up facing re-election are Cuomo and state legislators, and education issues, particularly the implementation of the Common Core standards and related testing, will undoubtedly play a role in the contests. While Cuomo's has an insurmountable-looking lead in the polls and in fund-raising, his prospects of compiling an impressive margin could be compicated by determined opposition from a key component of the traditional Democratic base.
“What you're hearing is an unmistakable message to the governor that you can't pretend that education is important,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and former head of the city teachers' union, which endorsed NYSUT's new leaders.
“I think you're seeing a level of anger that I frankly never even saw for Republican governors like George Pataki," she said.
I would agree that Iannuzzi's defeat is a message to Cuomo - it's a message that Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew have his back, that nothing the union does this year will damage his re-election margins because they're looking out for him.
As we've said here at Perdido Street School and has been said at some of the other education blogs, Iannuzzi was taken out just when he was getting more aggressive against Cuomo and his education reform agenda, not because he wasn't getting aggressive enough.
Revive NYSUT was put together by the Weingrew forces to "revive" union support for Cuomo and nothing else.
Yes, they're talking like they're opposed to Cuomo and certainly the tone this weekend was anti-Cuomo at the RA.
But as Norm Scott always says about Randi and the AFT/UFT forces, listen not what they say but rather watch what they do.
We've already seen them cave on the charter school issue in the budget battlet last month, essentially ceding total expansion powers to the charter entrepreneurs here in NYC without a fight.
Now Cuomo says he's turning his attention to APPR changes, with the system largely seen as a mess, especially around the Common Core testing, but as always with this stuff, the devil will be in the details.
Many rank and file teachers around the state want an end to APPR, have turned against the Common Core, and are enraged by the Cuomo budget and property tax cap that starve schools even as more mandates are thrown onto them by Cuomo and the state.
The new NYSUT president is already signaling less than staunch action against Cuomo:
Magee said she hopes to have a “fresh start” with Cuomo, opening a dialogue where perhaps there wasn't one before.
Magee said if there's no "progress," then the NYSUT will "take action" against the state over these issues.
But let's be frank here - the action was already taken when Weingarten and Mulgrew had Iannuzzi and his leadership taken out this weekend.
Message to Andy from Randi: We've got your back.