MORE’s Election Guide
MORE has endorsed Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor (Green Party-Row F on the NYS ballot). We urge all UFT members get out the vote! Let’s send Albany a message that attacking teachers and privatizing our education is not acceptable.
While UFT/NYSUT leadership under Unity caucus has responded to Cuomo’s anti-teacher comments in an unconcerned manner and has even expressed gratitude to Rob Astorino for writing an open letter to teachers, they have ignored the candidacy of Howie Hawkins. Hawkins is a fellow union brother and is running with UFT member Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor on a pro-public education and pro-union platform. We know full well that Hawkins/Jones are not being acknowledged by union leadership because of Jones’ role as a founder of MORE, our dissident caucus that has challenged Unity caucus for leadership of UFT and NYSUT. This is a great disservice to educators, parents, and students across our state. UFT/NYSUT ought to use their vast resources to educate union members and parents of all their choices in this critical election. UFT/NYSUT has allowed Cuomo to run on the Working Families line, instead of a pro-labor Hawkins.
NYSUT Locals throughout the state have endorsed Howie Hawkins/Brian Jones and their pro-education, anti-high stakes testing stance including, Buffalo Teachers Association and Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association.
There are three referendum proposals on this year’s ballot.
These are suggestions from former Deputy Comptroller for New York State and special education teacher Harris Lirtzman:
Proposition 1: Revising State’s Redistricting Process
It is a sham piece of “reform” brought to us by Governor Cuomo and the Legislature in the form of a “special commission” that would handle the decennial reapportionment of election districts. When you read the text you think, “Well, can’t be worse than what we’ve now got with ‘Three Men in a Room.'”
But it’s much worse and will only make the electoral process and district apportionment more complex and less democratic.
Proposition 2: Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills
I’ve seen the results of paper distribution. The Legislature has its own printing shop and during the end of session it runs 24/7 because the State Constitution requires a bill to be presented three days before it can be voted upon. The Governor generally issues a “statement of necessity” that eliminates the three day wait so that all the paper bills can be piled up on a legislator’s desk at the end of session and voted on without the least chance of review.
Whether any legislator will actually read an electronically distributed bill v. a paper bill is highly doubtful but vast acres of trees in the Adirondacks will be preserved so we might as well vote to “help a tree.” Seriously, won’t improve the states’ broken legislative process but will make it more green. Can’t hurt. And the next tree you see in Central Park, since they all talk to each other, will hug you if you stop long enough to tell it you voted for Prop 2.
Proposition 3: The “Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014”
Gov. Cuomo, without any consultation with academic leaders or school districts, proposed this $2 billion bond act early this year. It would allow the following, which might seem hard for educators to oppose:
The proposal would allow the State to borrow up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000). This money would be expended on capital projects related to the design, planning, site acquisition, demolition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or acquisition or installation of equipment for the following types of projects:
- To acquire learning technology equipment or facilities including, but not limited to,
- Interactive whiteboards,
- Computer servers, and
c.Desktop, laptop, and tablet computers;
- To install high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities;
- To construct, enhance, and modernize educational facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and provide instructional space to replace transportable classroom units (otherwise known as “Arthur Goldstein’s trailers”) and
- To install high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses
This one comes down to whether you believe this is a good way for the state to bond $2 billion…..
Andrew Cuomo to himself in bed at 3 a.m. some winter night, early 2014:
“Andrew, what do you think would be a good way to spend $2 billion in state bonding this year?”
“Gee, I dunno. I haven’t talked to anyone about this but then I don’t usually talk to anyone about anything.”
“What do most voters really like, come on, Andrew, this is not rocket science.”
“Well, most voters like ‘education” and that damned Astorino actually set up an anti Common Core party.”
“That’s true, but voters usually want to spend more money on schools without having to have their taxes raised.”
“Aha, Andrew, you are so smart, why don’t you put a really big, eye-catching proposal to spend $2 billion on technology in schools and then also put in a whole lot of other things that people might not be so concerned about such as building pre-K schools and stuff like that–nobody understands that the state is near its bonding limit and that all this stuff will be paid for over 30 years.”
Seriously, it might be hard for teachers to vote against something like this but $2 billion is a lot of money for something that no one other than Andrew Cuomo seriously seemed to think was necessary. The interest cost estimates on the $2 billion range from $40-$50 million a year for a total 30 year cost of about $450-$500 million. Usually, long-term bonds are used to finance long-term infrastructure, such as the building of roads, tunnels, bridges and buildings, not items with short term expected lives like school technology or even school wireless systems. Think LAUSD where they handed out $1 billion in iPads and the entire thing was a disaster. There don’t seem to be any particular controls over how the money will be spent but, in true election year fashion, the proceeds of the bonds, have already been apportioned among counties (see the charts in the links, below),
Some older school districts without a property tax base to support this sort of expenditure might benefit from the funds provided by Proposition 3. But much of the stuff funded by the bond act will be obsolete long before the bonds are retired.
Albany has an addiction to bonding as away to get around tax increases but we all pay for this one way or another. I’d say this one is doubtful but a case might be made for it if the right controls were in place to make sure the money was spent wisely. There is a “Commission” that will review proposals but its findings are not binding.