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Amid Common Core ferment, Republicans to cast Regents votes

Republicans in the State Senate have announced that they will vote in today’s elections for new Board of Regents members, heightening the likelihood that current members will lose their seats.

The legislature will vote to fill four slots on the 17-member board today, and the elections are contested because of dissatisfaction with the education policy-making body’s handling of the state’s Common Core rollout. An Albany-area Regent seen as most vulnerable announced that he was withdrawing his bid to remain on the board this morning, and it is unclear whether other incumbents will have the votes to maintain their seats.

Usually, Senate Republicans decline to participate in the election process because they object to the structure of the meeting, in which they are on equal ground with legislators from the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

But today, they announced they would cast votes for their own slate of pre-screened candidates because they are unhappy with the Regents’ recent policies. That makes it more likely for the board to be shaken up.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has sharply criticized the Regents recently, said today that the vote is significant because the board needs to be held accountable for how it sets education policy in the state.

“It was really done incredibly poorly,” he said on the “Capitol Pressroom” radio show about the Common Core rollout. “I think the vote should receive significant scrutiny.”

Also on “Capitol Pressroom,” Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat from Port Chester, said that he, too, would vote against the incumbents. The election represents “what democracy is,” he said, noting that if any candidate fails to win a majority of votes, legislators would have to work toward a compromise.

“I don’t think they’re bad human beings and I don’t think they’re unqualified,” Latimer said about the current Regents. But he said that he had been disappointed by the their unwillingness to “stop and reassess where we are going” in the face of public criticism.

“I don’t think we should press ahead and cross the north Atlantic if we’ve heard if there are icebergs out there,” Latimer said.

He said the Regents should take a page from legislators, who he said are “foot soldiers” who constantly strike out to meet constituents in their districts.

“The Regents ought to be doing more of that,” Latimer said. “Hear what people are saying so you can make the best possible policy.”