Most of the 2013 mayoral contenders are still keeping an arm’s length from a union-backed campaign to tie StudentsFirstNY’s agenda to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. But that hasn’t stopped a slew of other political hopefuls from throwing their support behind the effort.
New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a coalition of public unions, community-based organizations and liberal advocacy groups, has released a list of 33 elected officials and candidates who have signed on to a pledge to refuse support from StudentsFirstNY, which is seeking to advance the education polices started by the Bloomberg administration. The list includes candidates for Manhattan and Brooklyn Borough President, Public Advocate and a slew of City Council members and state legislators.
Noticeably absent are frontrunners in the one race that New Yorkers for Great Public Schools and StudentsFirstNY hope to influence the most: the 2013 mayoral election. Only one prospective candidate, John Liu, has said he’d reject StudentsFirstNY’s support.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said last week she’d be fine accepting their support, as did long-shot Tom Allon. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson was non-committal in his response and one other candidates, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has stayed mum on the subject.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio just emailed over to say that he would reject any support from StudentsFirstNY. The spokesman added that de Blasio would not, however, sign onto the pledge sent out by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools earlier today:
“Bill is committed to working with people on all sides of the education debate to improve our schools. But given the honest policy disagreements he has with StudentsFirst, he would respectfully decline contributions from the group’s PAC.”
But plenty of other elected officials and candidates for office were willing to speak out against StudentsFirstNY, according to New Yorkers for Great Public Schools. The statements that accompanied a release sent out this afternoon covered a broad range of education issues.
U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Vasquez called on class-size reduction and an end to rent-free charter school co-locations. State Senator Liz Krueger said that fairer student funding formulas and greater professional support for teachers were “common sense” reforms. And Councilman Mark Weprin criticized the StudentsFirstNY’s support of standardized testing, which he called a “scourge.”
There were also plenty of references to a report last week that showed some board members of StudentsFirstNY were actively working to defeat President Obama through fundraising and personal donations. New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, which published the report, has sought to use this link to argue that StudentsFirstNY’s policies would lead to a privatized education system that would threaten jobs and put bottom-line business interests above all else.
City Councilman Robert Jackson, a candidate for Manhattan Borough President, said the connections were “alarming and disturbing.” State Senator Eric Adams, a candidate for Brooklyn Borough President, called StudentsFirstNY an “ALEC-like organization,” referring to a national group of politicians, businesses, and think tanks that write and push for conservative legislation.
Glen Weiner, deputy director of StudentsFirstNY, said in a statement that it wasn’t surprising to see some that some elected officials were coming out in support of New Yorkers for Great Public Schools.
“A press release stating the teachers union can buy off or bully a couple of dozen politicians who think the current education system is just fine is hardly news,” Weiner said. “In fact, it’s one of the reasons StudentsFirstNY was formed.”
Below is a list of the 33 elected officials and candidates who said they have agreed to refuse funding from StudentsFirstNY:
Senator Eric Adams, Candidate for Brooklyn Borough President Assemblyman Jeff Aubry City Council Member Charles Barron Assemblywoman Inez Barron Assemblyman Michael Benedetto Assemblyman William Colton City Council Member Leroy Comrie, Candidate for Queens Borough President City Council Member Daniel Dromm City Council Member Julissa Ferraras Assemblywoman Deborah Glick Jesus Gonzalez, City Council candidate Noah Gotbaum, Candidate for Public Advocate Senator Shirley Huntley City Council Member Robert Jackson, Candidate for Manhattan Borough President City Council Member Letitia James, Candidate for Public Advocate Senator Liz Krueger City Council Member Brad Lander City Council Member Stephen Levin Comptroller John Liu, Candidate for Mayor Assemblyman Alan Maisel City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito Jason Otnaño, Candidate for State Senate Senator Kevin Parker Assemblyman Nick Perry City Council Member Diana Reyna Antonio Reynoso, Candidate for City Council Donovan Richards, Candidate for City Council Senator Gustavo Rivera Community Board 7 Member Helen Rosenthal Candidate for NYC Council City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez City Council Member Mark Weprin City Council Member Jumaane Williams