Cuomo: Review of Common Core On Tap – Again (Updated)

While continuing to express conceptual support for the “goal” of the Common Core standards, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today said he sympathizes the frustration of parents who have opted their kids out of standardized tests in growing numbers and believes the time has come for a “comprehensive review” of both the exams and the curriculum on which they are based.

“We must have standards for New York’s students, but those standards will only work if people – especially parents – have faith in them and in their ability to educate our children,” Cuomo said in a statement released this afternoon. “The current Common Core program does not do that. It must.”

“The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed,” the governor continued. “To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.”

Cuomo said he will ask a representative group made up of members of his past education reform commission, education experts, teachers, parents, new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and state lawmakers to conduct this review and report back to him with recommendations in time for his State of the State address in January.

The governor reiterated that he believes SED’s implementation of the Common Core has been “deeply flawed” – a position of which he becomes more convinced as time goes on. He noted that Elia (whom he did not mention specifically by name) “inherited” this problem, but also said that when it comes to her recent comments about the opt-out movement (which she has walked back somewhat), he sympathizes with the “frustration of the parents.”

In a round of interviews earlier this week – including on Capital Tonight – Elia said that her comments were perhaps misinterpreted as a threat, which she did not intend. She insisted that she was merely trying to provide answers and guidance to superintendents who asked how to handle the fallout from the unusually high opt-out rate – about 20 percent – in the late round of English and math exams.

This is a little bit of a tightrope for Cuomo, who doubled down on the teacher performance evaluation system and education reform during the last round of budget negotiations, insisting on a system that critics say is even more reliant on test results rather than less.

It also, ironically, puts him sort of on the same page as the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, with which he has not seen eye-to-eye on very much. The union has been actively fanning the flames of the parent-led opt-out movement, in hopes of undermining the evaluation system. NYSUT officials and their allies on both sides of the political fence often repeat the “we’re not against standards, just against the implementation” mantra when discussing the Common Core.

UPDATE: It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time the governor has asked a panel of experts and legislators to review the Common Core situation and get back to him with reform suggestions. In fact, his comments on this topic during his 2014-15 budget address sound a lot like the statement he released today.

The members of the 2014 Common Core implementation panel included then-Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan, who is now the majority leader. Critics questioned the necessity of this panel, saying there were already plenty of proposals on how to fix the Common Core problem.

That panel issued a preliminary report in March – about a month or so after the governor announced its membership, and after just two meetings. The preliminary recommendations had nearly all already been adopted by the Board of Regents or proposed by various state lawmakers. A final report was not forthcoming.

Larkin ‘Absolutely Running Again’ Says Senate GOP

As Senate Democrats zero in on the Hudson Valley district held by Republican incumbent Bill Larkin, a GOP conference spokesman on Thursday said the longtime lawmaker will “absolutely” run for re-election.

“Senator Larkin is extremely popular in his district and he is absolutely running again next year,” said spokesman Scott Reif. “It’s sad and unfortunate that Democrats continue to bring up an issue that has already been discredited, and one in which the Senator acted swiftly and decisively, and did everything right. If this is the strategy that the New York City Democrats intend to use to win the majority next year, they have even less than no chance.”

Larkin, 87, is one of the longest-serving members of the Senate GOP conference. More >

Higgins Latest House Dem To Back Iran Agreement

A day after it became clear the international nuclear agreement with Iran will be approved in the U.S. Senate, Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo announced he will support the agreement.

Like other lawmakers in favor of the agreement, Higgins acknowledged it was not ideal, but said the “benefits outweigh the costs.”

“I analyze every proposal that crosses my desk not based on whether it will achieve a perfect outcome, but rather on whether its benefits outweigh the costs,” he said in a statement this morning. “I believe the JCPOA meets that test. This agreement will do more than any plausible alternative to accomplish America’s objective of blocking Iran’s pathway to a bomb in a way that we can verify. For this reason I will vote to support the JCPOA when the question comes before the House.”

The yes vote from Higgins comes after a number of New York congressional Democrats have lined up behind the agreement, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, of Brooklyn; Nydia Velazquez, of Brooklyn; and Greg Meeks, of Queens – also deciding to vote “yes” on the deal.

At the same time, lawmakers who have previously expressed support for the agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities include Reps. Louise Slaughter (of Rochester), Paul Tonko (of Amsterdam), Jerry Nadler (of Manhattan, and the lone Jewish member of the delegation in the “yes” column), and Jose Serrano (of the Bronx).

The most prominent Democrat to not support the agreement so far has been U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator.

Cuomo Admin Seeks DEC Commissioner

From the Morning Memo:

The Cuomo administration is having trouble finding a successor to former state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, according to multiple sources familiar with the search.

Team Cuomo started looking for Martens’ replacement about six months ago, sources said. At least two potential commissioners have been mentioned – and even unofficially approached – for the job, but have so far declined to sign on.

The names floated include: Stu Gruskin, who served as executive deputy commissioner at DEC from 2007 to 2010 and is now with the Nature Conservancy; and Peter Lehner, who, until very recently, was the executive director of NRDC and the NRDC Action Fund.

The search was quietly taking place even though Martens repeatedly insisted he had no immediate plans to depart, it was widely believed that his time on the job was limited after the biggest decision of his tenure – whether to allow fracking in the Marcellus Shale – was settled with a drilling ban. More >

CSEA’s Danny Donohue To Run For Re-Election

From the Morning Memo:

As the Public Employee Federation, the state’s second-largest state worker union, has undergone internal turmoil and multiple leadership changes in recent years, things at the largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, have remained stable.

CSEA President Danny Donohue, an often controversial and outspoken figure, has remained at the helm since 1994, and he intends to seek another term in 2016, union spokesman Stephen Madarasz confirmed during a CapTon interview last night.

Madarasz said he is constrained by union rules from speaking at length about the “democratic process” through which CSEA elects its leadership, and was unable to say whether Donohue would face an opponent.

The union is currently in the petition period for would-be candidates. That ends on Sept. 30. Ballots will be mailed out to members on Jan. 19, 2016, and are due back in mid-February. (Like PEF, CSEA conducts its elections by mail). More >

Senate Dems Eye Larkin Seat

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats are increasingly confident of their chances in flipping Republican Sen. Bill Larkin’s district to their column.

Sources familiar with the push to win the Hudson Valley Senate seat long held by one of the conference’s most senior members believe that even if Larkin runs for another, he’s beatable with the right Democratic challenger.

Democrats are especially emboldened, in part, over recent headaches with his campaign finance account which led to Larkin firing his campaign treasurer and expect to tie him to the corruption arrest of the former majority leader, Long Island Republican Dean Skelos.

Larkin himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing. More >

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany.

At 8 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito discusses the “most important issues facing the Council” at a City & State Newsmakers event, State Grill & Bar, Empire State Bldg, 350 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hohcul visits the Albany Damien Center to highlight Cuomo’s initiatives to end the AIDS epidemic in NY, 646 State St., Albany.

At 10 a.m., the head of Catholic Charities, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, outlines plans for Pope Francis’ Sep 25 visit to East Harlem to meet and bless immigrants and refugees, Saint Cecilia’s Parish, 120 East 106th St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, New York Yankees and AT&T hold the fifth annual “Borough President’s Cup” Little League Championship, featuring the Grand Slam Little League and Kingsbridge Knights teams, ankee Stadium, 1 E 161st Street, the Bronx.

At 10:30 a.m., Hochul tours Albany’s Historic Wellington Row to highlight state investment in urban revitalization efforts, 144 State St., Albany.

At 11 a.m., Cuomo delivers remarks at the New York State Police graduation ceremony, Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler and Republican Rep. Pete King call on Congress to prevent the expiration of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, Silverstein Family Park, 7 World Trade Center, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., in advance of Cuomo’s Puerto Rico trip next week, members of the Hedge Clippers Campaign, Strong Economy for All, New York Communities for Change and others will demand the governor will return more than $ 1 million in campaign cash he has received from hedge fund donors driving the island further into economic chaos, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At noon, Emily Lloyd, NYC Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, and Mitchell Silver, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation commissioner, announce progress on water conservation measures at city playgrounds, St. Nicholas Park South Playground, 127th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio joins Mark-Viverito to sign legislation to prevent tenant harassment, Borinquen Court
285 East 138th St., the Bronx.

At 1 p.m., Cuomo attends the New York City PBA annual convention, Holiday Inn, 205 Wolf Rd., Colonie.

Also at 1 p.m., NYC Deputy Mayor Richard Buery holds twitter chat for parents whose children will be attending community schools. Parents should use #ParentsLearn.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau holds an informational and training symposium for members of the media in response to the shooting at WDBJ-TV in Virginia last week, One Police Plaza, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., district leader candidates from across upper Manhattan will protest proposed changes by the Board of Elections to poll sites, which will change the voting location for thousands of voters, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., the State Republican Committee hosts its 2015 annual Rising Star celebration featuring special guest Rep. Chris Gibson, 85 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs.

Also at 6 p.m., the Suffolk County GOP holds a “no speeches, no suits” end-of-summer blast fundraiser, Dublin Deck, 325 River Ave., Patchogue, Long Island.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo thinks New York City has a homelessness problem, but disagrees with critics – including the de Blasio administration – who say the state isn’t doing enough to help fix it.

As NYPD officers, mental health workers, lawyers and others visit homeless encampments in New York as part of a City Hall initiative, a prime mission will be determining how people wound up on the streets.

Cuomo, former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, (now a Cuomo administration aide), and State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico kicked off an awareness campaign at New York University to tout changes to state law regarding sexual assault as students head back to school.

The New York State Police plan to assign 12 senior investigators to help campus and local police statewide deal with college date rapes under the state’s new consent law.

The governor, who has a long (and complicated) relationship with the Clintons and endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid months ago, said a 2016 run by Vice President Joe Biden would be good for the Democratic Party, though it would put all Democrats “in a bind.”

Top officials in the de Blasio administration said that this summer has been the safest in decades as they tried to stem worries that crime is rising and quality of life is falling in New York City.

New York City has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by a former Rikers Island inmate who was hogtied by correction officers and then, while his hands were still cuffed, brutally beaten, the man’s lawyer said.

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito of the New York City Council endorsed Clinton for president, reinforcing Democratic support for Clinton in her home state and possibly offering her a boost in Mark-Viverito’s native Puerto Rico.

Some of Clinton’s LGBT supporters worry her campaign is taking their community’s votes for granted.

The former Clinton staffer who oversaw her private email server plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to answer incriminating questions before the House Benghazi Committee, according to a letter his lawyer sent the panel.

James Steinberg, who served as deputy secretary of state under Clinton and is mentioned in dozens of her emails, is stepping down as dean of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. His departure has nothing to do with the email scandal, an SU spokesman insisted.

More >

Extras

US Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland came out in support of the Iran deal, the 34th Democrat in favor. Her decision gives the president the votes needed to assure the deal will survive a congressional challenge.

New York City will open up an online ticket lottery for New Yorkers who want to see Pope Francis when he visits the city later this month.

Sidestepping a race where his backing could do more harm than good, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said he isn’t planning on endorsing a Democrat in the six-way race to replace Councilman Mark Weprin.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he didn’t invite de Blasio to be on his delegation to Puerto Rico that will include a half-dozen elected officials because he wants to provide expertise in finance and health care to the island in fiscal crisis.

The mayor took issue with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s praise of a controversial report by the late US Sen. Daniel Moynihan about the “crumbling” of family structure in poor black neighborhoods, calling the document outdated.

Cuomo’s Huffington Post column about rebuilding upstate’s economy makes no mention of Syracuse.

Cuomo announced that September is Preparedness Month across New York State and urged all New Yorkers to create an emergency plan that they can activate in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

Work on the new Tappan Zee Bridge is halfway complete.

Former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney took aim at Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton and the email scandal that she is embroiled in and threw his support behind the current second-in-command, Vice President Joe Biden.

Clinton’s popularity is sinking as the spotlight on her campaign intensifies, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll that shows the American electorate growing more polarized along racial lines.

In an OpEd in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Clinton outlined her plan to combat what she described as the “disease” of substance abuse.

Republican 2016 candidate Donald Trump said he’s supportive of a Kanye West White House run in 2020, and thinks he may have even been the one to inspire the celebrity rapper to think about a campaign.

De Blasio thinks Clinton “is offering a more and more powerful vision for addressing the issues that I’m particularly focused on,” but he’s still not ready to endorse her presidential bid.

Reshma Saujani, the tech-sector activist and former hedge fund attorney who ran for NYC public advocate in 2013 and Congress in 2010, is hosting a fundraiser for Clinton on Sept. 30.

A new bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, a Rockland County Democrat, would add hotel and motel rooms to the list of indoor spaces where smoking is prohibited in New York.

Joined by five college presidents, Rep. Louise Slaughter urged Congress to renew a federal loan program that is more than 50 years old, but is slated to expire at the end of September.

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research is out with a study, funded by the American Federation of Teachers, showing that New York women who belong to a union have a 25 percent wage advantage over women who aren’t union members.

Following Cuomo’s announcement of a public awareness campaign to educate students about “Enough is Enough,” SUNY has released two new web-based tools to support victims of sexual assault or interpersonal violence, whether the victim attends a SUNY school or not.

Cuomo: Puerto Rico ‘Very Important To Me’

cuomotodayGov. Andrew Cuomo called his relationship with Puerto Rico and officials there struggling with a $72 billion debt “very important to me personally” and said he was asked to bring financial and health-care experts when he visits on Monday.

“Puerto Rico is in crisis. It is a financial crisis,” he said. “They can’t pay their debt. Their costs are burgeoning. Friends are there when other friends need help.”

Cuomo said his work with Puerto Rico dates back to his days as the federal housing secretary, when he would frequently travel to the island, which has a high percentage of affordable housing units.

“I’ve made a lot of personal relationships and those relationships are important on an institutional and personal level,” Cuomo said on Wednesday. More >

Mark-Viverito Endorses Clinton (Updated)

mmvNew York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Wednesday endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in an op/ed in Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia.

“For Puerto Ricans – both on the island and throughout the diaspora – this election the most important in our lifetime,” Mark-Viverito wrote in the op/ed released earlier today. “Hillary’s plan has shown she is not just a friend to the island; she will stand up for it.”

Mark-Viverito aimed at her appeal directly at Puerto Rican voters to support Clinton in its June 5 Democratic primary.

“Throughout her career as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, Senator from New York and as Secretary State, Hillary Clinton has been a champion of everyday Americans,” she wrote. “I urge Puerto Ricans to vote for her in the Democratic Primary on June 5th, 2016 and I am proud to endorse her. Let’s send a woman to the White House.” More >