N.Y. Congressional Race Highlights Testing, Charters, Common Core
Zephyr Teachout, who ran against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo two years ago in the Democratic primary by attacking his policies about testing and the Common Core State Standards, is now campaigning on a similar platform as she seeks a seat in Congress as a Democrat. Her GOP opponent, John Faso, is a big fan of charter schools and used to work on budget issues for the Buffalo, N.Y., school district.
Teachout is an associate professor at Fordham University law school, while Faso is a former member of the state assembly who also ran unsuccessfully for Empire State governor in 2006. Both are seeking the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives being vacated by current U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican, who represents the state's 19th congressional district. The district consists of several upstate counties around Albany in upsate. According to recent polling, they're running neck and neck. And the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., acknowledged that it's a tight race between the two.
A victory for Teachout would mean that those critical of high-stakes tests and the common core would get a big-time champion in Washington, maybe their most outspoken one. She would also represent a state where backlash to those policies has been particularly strong, as expressed through the testing opt-out movement. Yet in a few respects, her view of education policy isn't wholly different from Faso's—more on that below.
As we wrote in 2014, Teachout became something of a hero for progressives and others who expressed disgust at education policy in New York state under Cuomo, former state school board chief Merryl H. Tisch, and then-Commissioner of Education John B. King Jr.—who's now U.S. education secretary. She said she was taking a stand for public education and said that Cuomo was responsible for various policies that undermined schools, including underfunding of K-12 and teacher evaluations that were tied to test scores.
Teachout lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Cuomo by a significant margin, but garnered a bigger share of the vote (33 percent) than many expected—Cuomo got 60 percent of the vote. Teachout can count on Diane Ravitch, an education historian and high-profile critic of policies associated with Cuomo and President Barack Obama, as one of her fans.
We weren't able to speak with Teachout directly for this post. A spokesperson for her campaign, Alexis Grenell, said this week that Teachout had been marching with the Alliance for Quality Education to demand that New York state fully fund education, 10 years after a landmark court ruling about Empire State education spending. The group says black, Latino, and other students do not get the share of resources they deserve in K-12 in many districts. The march took place Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, and went from New York City to Albany.
Meanwhile, as the state assembly minority leader, Faso wrote legislation to expand charter schools in New York state. And a decade ago, when he ran for governor, Faso criticized then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, for not being a bigger fan of charters. The New York Post reported thatGibson has endorsed Faso to replace him. In an interview, he told us that the federal goverrnment has injected itself too much into state and local K-12 decisions over the last dozen years.
And he was particularly critical of the No Child Left Behind Act—which he said he would have voted against had he been in Congress— and the Race to the Top grant New York state received for work on curriculum, standards, and accountability.
"The federal government could have just dropped [money] out of airplanes and it would have had the same impact," Faso told us.
Teachout repeatedly stresses that she is in favor of "public education." On her website, Teachout notes that she used to work as an aide to a special education teacher in a rural school, and remembers that when she was a child, her teachers were "demanding" but also "attentive."
"A top-down, highly regimented testing regime like Common Core, would not have worked for all N.Y. Congressional Race Highlights Testing, Charters, Common Core - Politics K-12 - Education Week: