Yesterday, I participated in a rally against Governor Cuomo’s education policies at one of his Long Island fundraisers for his campaign for re-election. I was happy to lend my voice in support of the cause of letting it be known that as far as his education policies are concerned, the experts in the matter (the teachers, parents, and various stakeholders who were represented at the picket) are of the opinion that they suck.
I’ve never been the world’s largest fan of our current Governor, dating well back to earlier, unsuccessful campaigns for the position that he now holds. Ideologically, he and I should be on the same page. From the standpoint of “social issues,” we largely are. I am in agreement with his stances on environmental issues, civil liberties, assault weapons, and many of the other policies that he has pursued in the non-education sphere. But there has always been something in his character (as far as any member of the public can really approach such notions in our public officials) that seems to me to be somewhat callous, and there is something in the way he pursues what he believes to be the correct path that plays as arrogant, and unwilling to listen to perspectives that he doesn’t agree with. Many times, this probably works well for him. Education is not one of those times.
The plain fact of the matter is that under the Governor’s tenure as the chief executive of our state, public education has suffered tremendously. The tax cap forces schools to cut programs and scale back funding for services to “do more with less.” The expansion of charter schools continues to siphon monies from the public till that could otherwise be used to preserve said programs, or the myriad of unfunded mandates that districts are forced to provide for. Perhaps most damningly, the Governor has been a vocal cheerleader for the policies of NYSED, relating to RTTT compliance/APPR, and the breathtakingly botched rollout of Common Core-aligned curriculum and testing in New York. Certainly, a good part of the blame for these issues lie with the Board of Regents and the State Legislature, but the captain goes down with the ship (or at least he should).
So I was happy to participate in yesterday’s action. But as outspoken, and upset as folks are, there is one slight problem: There is no alternative.
Well, that’s not really correct. I should really say that there is no mainstream alternative. For those of us who are disgusted with what Governor Cuomo has done to our schools, who can we vote for that is more closely aligned to our thinking? The likely Republican challenger at this point seems to be Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and he’s a nightmare on all fronts: socially, fiscally and educationally (it’s no easy feat to be in favor of worse educational policies than what are currently being pursued). There are certainly other parties that we can choose from, and I am certain that at least some of those will have candidates who adhere more closely to a pro-education policy, but at the end of the day, I’d be kidding if I said that I thought that any vote for a third party was anything other than a protest vote.
But maybe that’s what we need here. Maybe, if enough of the Governor’s “base” lets it be known that they feel his education positions are horrendous, he might take note and change course. As disagreeable as he can be, Andrew Cuomo is not a stupid man. He is also the Platonic ideal of the political animal. We have to assume that his aspirations reach beyond the borders of New York. And if that time comes, and he is running for national office, “I made mistakes on education, and I fixed them once I realized my error” will play much better than “I destroyed one of the best public education systems in the country.” Personally, I think we should continue to let him know how we feel, both in the streets and at the ballot box.