Monday, September 15, 2014

On Astorino--Seeing the Forest for the Trees

There's not a whole lot of controversy over the fact that our esteemed Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is pretty much a loathsome reptile. After all, he's maintained a Gap Elimination Adjustment over public schools while concurrently imposing a tax cap that's made it almost impossible to compensate for lost funds. He's called himself a student lobbyist, but supports giving no votes to school budgets more weight than yes votes. And he circumvented NYC mayoral control when it appeared the mayor was no longer going to kowtow to Eva Moskowitz.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that on Twitter I see a few working teachers flocking to Cuomo's GOP opponent, Rob Astorino, because they think he's an improvement. Granted, Astorino opposes Common Core. I watched him speak to a group in Comsewogue about that. But Tea Party stalwarts, like Scott Walker, also oppose it. So if you're going to support Astorino, you have to look a little more deeply before you assume he's supportive of public schools. I mean, if that were the case, why would teacher union public enemy number one (or at least close, as there are so many nowadays) Scott Walker be raising money for him?

For one thing, Astorino opposes the Triborough Amendment. This is very important to NYC teachers, who just went 6 years without a contract, not to mention Buffalo teachers, who are still without one after a decade. The Triborough Amendment mandates that existing contracts remain in force until and unless they are renegotiated. In Astorino's NY Post op-ed, he suggests this gives us no motivation to negotiate. Its repeal or "reform" would certainly cripple our ability to bargain collectively, and this places Astorino sqaurely in Scott Walker territory. And for those who complain the Post piece is from 2012, here's Astorino challenging Triborough in April 2014. He also supports changing work rules and reducing pension benefits, according to that piece. Could he be alluding to eliminating collective bargaining, like his BFF Scott Walker did in Wisconsin?

It's pretty well-known that Astorino supports charters. I haven't heard quite as much about his support for vouchers and tax incentives for contributions to private schools. This is clearly a man who supports privatization rather than public schools. I'm seeing a right-wing GOP Tea Party guy here. And as for Cuomo's tax cap, Astorino not only supports it, but in fact does not think it goes far enough. And he's "cautiously supportive" of anti-tenure lawsuits.

Several people have commented to me both here and on Twitter that Astorino's wife is a teacher. They say he's a great guy. I watched the documentary Journeys with George and went away persuaded that GW Bush was a great guy too. I'm afraid that did not mitigate his positions. There are teachers who support Astorino, and I don't doubt that his wife is one of them. But Astorino as governor will hurt most of us, as well as those we teach. As far as I'm concerned, this real Republican not only represents no improvement over faux-Democrat Andrew Cuomo, but is potentially much, much worse.

I'm seeing November's election as largely a lose-lose. I don't vote for anti-public ed. candidates anymore. Cuomo was the first Democrat for whom I declined to vote, and this November I'll likely support Green Candidate Howie Hawkins once again.

It's a disgrace that neither major party offers a candidate who supports public education or working people.
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