Newly announced gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo’s choice of running mate, announced this afternoon, seals the deal on his education position. The Cuomo ticket is in basically the same camp as Barack Obama and Joel Klein: in favor of charter schools and mayoral control and not afraid to challenge the teachers union.
The running mate, Robert Duffy, mayor of Rochester, has advocated for bringing mayoral control of schools to Rochester, against teachers union opposition. To defend his argument, he has cited the school system “down the Thruway” — the New York City schools under Chancellor Joel Klein. A former Klein staffer, Jean-Claude Brizzard, is Rochester’s schools superintendent. And in his State of the City address earlier this month, Duffy singled out Uncommon Schools’ Rochester charter school, True North, for praise.
That’s in keeping with what Cuomo has been saying about education since officially announcing his candidacy this week. “I believe public education is the new civil rights battle and I support charter schools,” he declared, announcing a list of core principles that also included his support for gay marriage and abortion rights.
Cuomo has also received the blessing — and a so-far undisclosed donation — from the lobbying wing of Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now. DFER Executive Director Joe Williams told me today that he’s “impressed” with Cuomo, who breakfasted with Williams’ hedge fund board members in April.
There may be some small ways in which the new ticket steps aside from this camp, though. When I called up Rochester teachers union president Adam Urbanski this morning, he told me he thinks that Duffy “will make a terrific lieutenant governor.” He said he strongly disagrees with Duffy on mayoral control, and that he expects the union will clash with Cuomo and Duffy on charter schools. But he said the two men have a wide range of agreements:
He is in favor of neighborhood schools to the extent possible; he is in favor of schools serving as centers for the community and neighborhoods – in other words he is in favor of comuntiy schools. He’s in favor of strong discipline and school safety. He’s in favor of rigor.
Indeed, in the same State of the City speech, Duffy endorsed the idea of a neighborhood school:
We will guarantee a place for elementary school children at their nearest neighborhood school, if that is what the family wants. There will be choices of other schools with special programs and services, but every young child will be able to attend a neighborhood school if their parents choose. That will reduce transportation costs overall, and allow us to provide transportation for all families that need it.
He also endorsed the idea of “community schools”:
The school buildings themselves will become bridges to neighborhood-based services – instead of islands that sit vacant every afternoon, weekend and over the summer.