EffectiveNY Joins Education Debate

From the Morning Memo:

An organized funded by liberal Democratic donor/activist Bill Samuels is launching an online campaign in opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform agenda that uses the governor’s own words against him.

The campaign is centered around a web video that highlights the disparities between high-income and high-needs school districts, and features Cuomo saying when he was first a candidate for governor back in 2010 that education is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

“There are two education systems in this state,” Cuomo says, “not public-private, but one for the rich and one of the poor; they’re both public systems.”

Samuels then appears on the screen, accusing Cuomo of “discriminating” against poor students across in New York and adding: “Stop blaming our teachers for your failed policies.”

“On Cuomo’s watch, the gap in spending between New York’s 100 richest schools and 100 poorest schools has increased by a deplorable degree,” Samuels says in a press release that will announce the online campaign – an early copy of which was provided to CapTon.

“Every child deserves an equal chance but Cuomo has abdicated the state’s fiscal responsibility to provide all of New York’s students with an equal opportunity for an excellent education,” he continues.

“I applaud all the parents, teachers, and children who are rising up across the state to defeat Cuomo’s discriminatory education agenda in the current legislative session.”

At this point, there are no plans to air the video as a TV ad, according to a source familiar with Samuels’ plans, but it will be widely circulated today by education activists and the teachers unions.

This is the first time Samuels had waded into this year’s budget battle, but he has been sharply critical of Cuomo on all manner of issues – from redistricting and campaign finance reform to ethics and constitutional amendments – for years now.

Samuels has long been closely allied with the Senate Democrats, and even served as their finance chairman in the 2008 elections. He was very critical of Cuomo for failing to support the Democrats’ efforts to re-take the Senate majority, and even suggested the governor should seek re-election in 2014 as a Republican.

Samuels briefly sought a primary challenger to Cuomo, and considered running for lieutenant governor himself. He provided some support to Cuomo’s liberal opponent, Zephyr Teachout, but ended up more or less backing the governor’s successful re-election bid.

"Every Child" from EffectiveNY on Vimeo.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 8 a.m., Sen. Jack Martins holds a $400-a-head breakfast fundraiser at The Fort Orange Club President’s Room, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a news conference before touring two apartment buildings included in her office’s list titled “The 100 Worst Landlords in New York City” released Wednesday, Oct. 8, as part of her series of “six month check-in” visits to properties on the list, 14 E. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Councilman David Greenfield and representatives of the Food Bank For New York City and the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network publicize the phone number of a citywide telephone hotline to request kosher emergency food packages leading up to the Jewish observance of Passover; 10th floor, 39 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the PSC will hold its regularly scheduled board meeting, 9th Floor Board Room, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie holds a press conference regarding access to women’s reproductive health services; he’ll be joined by bill sponsor Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and advocates, Speaker’s Conference Room (342), state Capitol, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, NYPA and ESDC launch the 43North 2015 Business Idea Competition and Grand Opening of 43North Business Incubator Hub. Innovation Center, 640 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Sens. Marc Panepinto, Leroy Comrie and Jesse Hamilton will speak about their support for raising the minimum wage, outside the Senate chamber, Third Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At noon, supporters of the New York Immigration Coalition hold a rally to publicize a hunger strike seeking passage the DREAM Act in Albany; outside 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at noon, prents and members from New York Hispanic Clergy Association will host a press conference, urging elected officials in Albany for bold action fixing a statewide crisis that fails close to 800,000 students every year, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

Also at noon, members of AQE, Citizen Action, NYSUT, UFT and the WFP will hand-deliver a petition to Cuomo’s office asking him to end his policies that have led to the most racially and economically segregated schools in the nation, War Room, Second Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, delivers a keynote speech to New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce members during the business organization’s annual luncheon to mark the March observance of “Women’s History Month”; Tosca Marquee catering facility, 4034 E. Tremont Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:45 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina hold a press conference at Automotive High School, 50 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn.

At 7:30 p.m., Queens GOP Chairman, Bob Turner, Deputy Chief Clerk Queens Board of Elections Bart Haggerty, State Committeewoman AD 29, Scherie Murray, and candidate for state committeeman for AD 29, Samuel Benoit hold a rally, American Legion – Rosedale Laurelton Post 483, 240-08 135th Avenue, Rosedale.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are talking about creating a commission to craft a teacher evaluation system – a signal the governor is giving ground on another of his top budget priorities. The teachers unions are reserving judgment until they see the details.

Tom Precious: “Criminal justice, education, infrastructure, immigration and tax issues all started falling off the budget table as (Cuomo) and lawmakers erased their previous lines in the sand. It was a sure sign of a desperate push for an on-time state budget by next Wednesday.”

Plans to increase the state oil spill fund may fall by the wayside during the state budget process, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the closed-door talks. Cuomo has proposed increasing the fund from $25 million to $40 million.

As a former assistant US attorney in scandal-ridden Albany, freshman Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky is viewed with suspicion by some of his colleagues. He was recently toasted at his 37th birthday party by a fellow lawmaker as “our favorite spy.”

In an act of open defiance toward Albany and Cuomo’s education reform agenda, the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board voted unanimously to “seriously consider” boycotting teacher evaluations and standardized testing in the district.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has kept a lower profile in Albany this year, making few public trips to the state Capitol and working with his staff behind the scenes to advance his agenda.

He now calls it an experiment worthy of just a three year-extension, but it wasn’t that long ago that Cuomo hailed mayoral control of the NYC schools as the ultimate form of accountability.

The New York Times calls mayoral control “among the most successful contributions the Legislature has made to education in New York City in recent history,” and says it needs to be extended – or “ideally” made permanent – now, “while the budget pressure is on, and not put off for another day.” Other issues of importance: ethics reform, the DREAM Act, EITC, raise the age, minimum wage and public campaign financing.

The Jewish community is ramping up pressure on Cuomo not to abandon the EITC, though he said yesterday that both the tax credit and the DREAM Act, which he had linked in his budget proposal, have been dropped from budget talks.

Michael Goodwin: “The continuing Moreland fiasco and the education collapse are also linked in another way — they show his nightmare is coming true. Nobody in Albany is afraid of Andrew Cuomo anymore.”

AG Eric Schneiderman is investigating financial decisions at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art that led to the school’s move to charge undergraduate tuition for the first time in its history, according to board members.

More >

Supporters of Alix’s Law Optimistic In A ‘Post-Silver’ Assembly

With a new leader in the State Assembly there’s new optimism a few proposed laws that have been blocked will finally make it to the floor for a vote this legislative session.  One piece of legislation would eliminate a loophole in the state’s hit-and-run law.

It’s called Alix’s law, after Western New York teenager Alix Rice who was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 2011.  After four years of waiting, Rice’s father told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen he has high hopes under new Speaker Carl Heastie

“Our new Speaker has a golden opportunity at this time to put a positive stamp on his leadership of this Assembly,” said Richard Rice.

Under the proposed law, drivers would not be able to argue they were unaware they hit a person or caused damage to property, if they were drunk.  The man who hit and killed Alix Rice was convicted of a misdemeanor, but avoided conviction on the more serious charges he faced.

Rice believes former Speaker Sheldon Silver was only thing standing in the way of the bill that was passed again this year in the State Senate.

“When I talked to him about it he said it was just too controversial to introduce to the Assembly,” Rice said.

The bill has another thing going for it, it’s sponsored in the Assembly by Buffalo’s Crystal Peoples-Stokes.  Stokes is a strong ally of Speaker Heastie and hasn’t been shy about exercising her new found influence.

Much like the new found optimism surrounding the Mixed Martial Arts legislation, in a “post-Silver Assembly,” Rice feels the bill is closer to becoming law than it’s ever been.  Still he’s keeping his fingers crossed.

“It will give me a feeling that she did something great for the world even though it wasn’t really by choice,” Rice added.


Gov. Andrea Cuomo’s teacher evaluation overhaul that would rely on outside evaluators is just “another way to privatize education,” NYC Chancellor Carmen Fariña said.

A bill to legalize MMA in New York – the last state where the sport is still banned – was approved for the sixth time in the state Senate.

A budget bill – debt service, the least controversial portion of the annual spending plan – is moving.

As the budget clock ticks down, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner this morning hosted a news conference to repeat her call to increase funding for roads, water lines and other infrastructure.

“(I)t’s really not three men in a room anymore – it’s Cuomo, Skelos and 109 Assembly Democrats.”

Buzzfeed explored the option of moving 200 of its employees to New Jersey before New York’s chief economic development agency entered into an agreement giving the company $4 million in tax credits.

If you’re headed to Sunday Mass for Palm Sunday, there will be a message from Cardinal Dolan and the New York bishops on the need for Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the EITC.

Tomorrow, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer will call for stockbrokers and financial advisers operating in New York state to be required to disclose whether they are obligated to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted brithday greetings to SU.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the backlash against the University of Virginia woman who said she was raped in the Rolling Stone article “inappropriate” and an example of victim-blaming.

The last time she ran for president, Hillary Clinton did not have to take a position on the Common Core, teacher evaluations or Race to the Top. Now, as she prepares for another likely White House run, she’s being pulled in opposite directions on education policy.

New York ranks third in the United States for number of active hate groups according to an interactive map and report from the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center advocacy group.

Even as NYU Langone Medical Center moves forward on building an emergency department on the former site of Long Island College Hospital, litigation over its development continues.

Rep. Pete King doubled down on his statement that compared Sen. Ted Cruz – the GOP’s first official 2016 candidate – to a “carnival barker,” saying: “Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate.”

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano opposes the Senate Republicans’ move to eliminate authorization for school-zone speed cameras on Long Island.

Warning that the nation’s security is at risk, Rep. John Katko says he is concerned that President Barack Obama has not yet nominated a new administrator for the TSA.

ESPN personality Keith Olbermann recently included those pushing to have the “Redskins” nickname restored at Lancaster High School on his “World’s Worst” list.

The Redskins still have the right to use the name, but according to a Department of Justice argument filed in a federal court, so does everyone else.

Maryland might follow in New York’s fracking ban footsteps.

Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile jabbed at his Congressional rival, Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, for taking off early from a candidate forum last night to attend a fund-raiser nearby instead of sticking around for a full-length debate.

No words exist to adequately describe this.

Cuomo Defends The Budget’s Casualties (Updated)

It’s doubtful the DREAM Act and the education tax credit will return to the budget negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged on Tuesday afternoon.

Cuomo also defended those long-sought measures dropping from the talks as Cardinal Timothy Dolan urge state lawmakers and the governor to come to an agreement on both issues.

“They could go back in, but it’s highly unlikely,” Cuomo said after meeting with Senate Republicans.

Cuomo said he’s made his priorities in the state budget “clear” by linking so many items to appropriations.

Cuomo sought to tie the DREAM Act, the education tax credit and the Tuition Assistance Program together in a single package.

In the end, the governor couldn’t get the differing sides in the Legislature to agree.

“We have no agreement,” Cuomo said. “We are no where close to an agreement. The Assembly does not want to do the ETC. The Senate does not want to do the DREAM Act. They’re both dug in, so it was pointless in the budget. I support both. I support both deeply.”

The DREAM Act provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. The tax credit met to aid both public and non-profit scholarship programs that benefit private schools.

“I’m going to work very hard to make sure they’re passed,” Cuomo said. “But remember, this is only the budget, the session ends in June.”

The governor appeared to be directing his comments at the vocal proponents of both issues, including Dolan, who said in a statement he had spoken with Cuomo over the phone about the issues.

In his statement, Dolan urged Cuomo to be “unwavering” on the education tax credit, a measure he has lobbied for in the last several legislative sessions.

Cuomo today confirmed the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles will have to be taken care out of the budget, given its complicated nature.

Updated: Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa says the juvenile justice reform proposals remain part of the budget talks.

Capitol Tidbits…

Since resigning the speakership earlier this year, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver has kept a low profile. He quietly joined the Education Committee in the Assembly, and then last week he introduced a bill – his first as a rank-and-file member.

I caught up with the former speaker as he chewed on cashew nuts outside the Assembly chamber earlier today. Silver said his bill would provide a maximum $500 credit to parents who pay tuition for parochial or private schools. Sources say Silver has been trying to rally support for the bill from other members in the chamber. Silver views it as a solid alternative to the discussion taking place about the Education Investment Tax credit; which was dropped from the budget earlier this week.

“The idea is to help parents who pay tuition,” Silver said. “It gives THEM the credit directly instead of some well-heeled donor. It’s an alternative to the EITC.”

It was a very Shelly moment.

Assemblyman Keith Wright then walked over to us, and explained to Silver that he and I attended the same high school. (Just a quick hint – the assemblyman and I are not the same age).

Silver paused a moment, reached into his cup for another cashew, popped it into his mouth and murmured through a wry smile: “I’m not impressed.” Then he turned his back and slowly sauntered away.


On Saturday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the SOMOS conference here in Albany. I had the distinct pleasure of driving up here to cover it. Last month, when de Blasio attended caucus weekend, which I also covered, he made very little news. But on Saturday night. he not only took the stage at precisely his allocated time to speak, which was 8 p.m., he actually took a shot at Gov. Andrew Cuomo on education.

Cuomo has repeatedly been pointing out that certain schools are “failing,” and therefore need to be taken over by the state in some form of receivership. The mayor strongly disagrees with this move, and has been voicing his criticism – in increasingly shapening tones – for some time now.

“Don’t call our children failing or our schools failing if you haven’t even tried to invest in them,” de Blasio said at Somos.

Today, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, took issue with that. Surprisingly, the Queens Democrat defended the governor, with whom she – not to mention many of her assembly majority conference colleagues – have not been seeing eye-to-eye on a lot of topics this budget season.

“The mayor doesn’t help the city of New York when he does it in outside speeches on Saturday when they know discussions are happening,” Nolan said. “The mayor would be better off leaving it to his professional people, like (NYC Schools Chancellor) Carmen Farina. I think the governor has made a good faith effort to respond to the city’s concerns about struggling schools. And if I were the mayor, I’d probably just say ‘thank you.'”

Perhaps there is still some lingering anger there over the mayor’s support for Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie over Nolan to succeed Silver as speaker earlier this year. But that would be crazy, right? Because politicians never hold grudges.

***UPDATE*** Mayor de Blasio’s people point out that the mayor was specifically referring to the state’s continued failure to properly fund schools under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. That decision by the state’s highest court has been ignored for years, and advocates for public education argue that is precisely why certain schools continue to fail.

It’s a fair point.


Senate Republicans Close With Cuomo On Education Reform

Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are close to an agreement on education reform issues in the state budget, but the Democratic-led Assembly remains another matter.

Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Tuesday said his conference is “just about there with him” on education issues following a lengthy closed-door conference on the issue.

At this point, state lawmakers and Cuomo are considering the creation of a commission that would develop teacher evaluation criteria.

It’s unclear what the final composition of the panel would be and what their purview would be.

“Now it’s really about the commission, the composition of the commission and really want their charge would be in terms of finalizing education reform,” Skelos said.

It also remains undetermined if the panel’s recommendations would be immediately acted up on or have to be approved by the Legislature, he said.

“They would come up with recommendations to the Legislature and the question is whether we would vote for it or whether they would implement what they recommend,” Skelos said.

Cuomo is continuing to press on with most of his initial education reform agenda, though a lifting of the statewide cap on charter schools is being left for later in the legislative session.

Assembly Democrats remain at odds with Cuomo on a variety of education issues, including a school receivership proposal as well as an effort to reform teacher tenure and the evaluation procedures for teachers.

“On the Senate side we have had very good conversations on education,” Cuomo said this afternoon. “The Assembly side is still discussing the issue.”

Cuomo Meets With Senate For A ‘Good Conversation’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans met privately for about an hour on Tuesday afternoon to discuss ethics reform legislation in the state budget.

Cuomo took the unusual step of traveling to the third floor of the Capitol to meet with Republican lawmakers in their offices as the GOP conference remains skeptical over a proposal to disclose private legal clients of state lawmakers.

“I understand their issues,” Cuomo told reporters after the meeting. “We’ve been talking about it now for a number of weeks. We have an ethics agreement with the Assembly, which demonstrates it can be done.”

Cuomo added he had a “good conversation” with Republican lawmakers even as disclosure remains a “sensitive area” for lawyer-legislators.

“You should also remember this issue has plagued Albany for about 50 years,” Cuomo said.

The meeting takes place a week after Cuomo and Assembly Democrats agreed on a package of ethics reform measures in the state budget ranging from disclosure to pension forfeiture and travel per diem disbursement.

But the disclosure concerns and their scope have taken center stage for Republicans in the state Senate.

Cuomo is pushing the ethics legislation following the arrest of now-former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges that stem from legal referrals masked as bribes, according to prosecutors.

“Members brought up some of their concerns and it’s mainly client confidentiality,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters, adding, “The main issue is how far do we go and also protect client confidentiality because that is very important.”

Cuomo has insisted that lawmakers must include ethics legislation in the budget or he won’t agree to a broader spending plan.

But Skelos this afternoon signaled both sides were willing to make an agreement on the ethics issues.

“We all realize there’s give and take if you’re going to get a result,” Cuomo said. “That’s where the discussions are right now and we’re going to continue.”

Senate Republicans did not mention any of their own reform proposals aimed at the executive branch when meeting with the governor, Cuomo and Skelos said.

Klein: Ethics ‘Most Important Issue’

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Tuesday called ethics reform legislation “the most important” issue in Albany.

He added that if an agreement is reached on ethics reform legislation, broader deals could be reached on the budget, due next week.

“I think ethics reform is probably the most important issue we’re going to be dealing with,” Klein said in an interview. “I understand if we get it done, everything kind of flows from there.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced Assembly Democrats backed his disclosure and per diem reform proposals along with a constitutional amendment to expand pension forfeiture.

Senate Republicans, however, have reservations over the disclosure of private business clients and have proposed alternative financial disclosure rules aimed at the executive branch.

Klein himself has proposed the creation of a full-time Legislature by banning outside income of state lawmakers.

At the same time, Klein stepped away from his Bronx law firm where he had been a partner.

“I put my money where my mouth is,” he said.

Ethics reform legislation was re-injected into the Albany budget debate this year following the arrest of former Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges.

While Cuomo’s office has indicated a number of measures have fallen off the budget negotiating table, the governor reiterated that he won’t support a budget agreement without ethics reform (Cuomo has referred to this as “approving” a budget, which the governor does not actually do).

Still, Cuomo’s ethics push with the Senate Republicans comes as he still must convince Assembly Democrats to go along with his education reform proposals.

“I’m hopeful we all can come together and can come up with a plan to deal with all the problems we have in Albany,” Klein said. “I don’t think we can forward unless we come up with a plan to address ethics in Albany.”

Shifting Tactics, Pro-Education Tax Credit Forces Re-Air Dolan Ad

A day after supporters released a television ad pushing for the approval of the education investment tax credit, the spot is being swapped out for last year’s commercial featuring Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The swap comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in a statement indicated that both the tax credit and the DREAM Act are falling off the table in the budget negotiations.

The size of the purchase — which organizers say is substantial — remains the same and the ad will air on Time Warner Cable News, NY1, Capital Region broadcast and New York City cable.

The Dolan ad first aired last year and is more pointed in its tone and script on the issue.

“Governor Cuomo has assured us that he would fight for an innovative plan to help these students,” Dolan says. “But when the state budget was done, we were left out.”

Injecting Dolan back into the debate over the tax credit comes as both forces for the measure as well as those in favor of the DREAM Act are making a last-minute push to have them included in the budget talks.

The tax credit is meant to encourage donations to public schools and non-profit scholarships that benefit private schools.

The DREAM Act would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

Both measures were linked together by Cuomo in his state budget proposal. Senate Republicans oppose the passage of the DREAM Act, while some Democrats in the Assembly have been skeptical of the tax credit, which is opposed by the state’s teachers unions.