Teachers unions supply the Democratic Party with money and foot soldiers. But if Democrats intend to make income inequality their issue in 2014 and 2016, they will have to give up their slavish devotion to these unions, which deny inner city kids a shot at a quality education and an escape route from poverty.
A few Democrats, such as former Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have challenged union power, but not New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Anyone eyeing Cuomo as the back-up candidate for President in 2016, in the event Hillary doesn’t run, needs to take a look at his failed record on school reform.
New Yorkers are fleeing the upstate region’s moribund economy and moving to states with more jobs, and fewer taxes and job killing regulations. But inner city school kids in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo aren’t going anywhere. Despite the phrase “No Child Left Behind” that’s what they are. Kids left behind. They are victims of Cuomo’s indifference to school failure and the greed of the teachers’ unions.
At the worst high schools in Buffalo, fewer than 25% of students graduate on time. District wide, only about half graduate. The same is true in Rochester and Syracuse. That means no mobility -- social or geographical -- for these kids.
BridgeGate has been all over the news, because New Jersey’s Governor allegedly stalled drivers at the George Washington Bridge for four days. New York’s Governor is stalling inner city kids for a lifetime. They can’t escape or succeed.
Compared with newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who opposes charter schools, merit pay and standardized tests, Cuomo is touted as a reformer. It’s undeserved. On occasion Cuomo has talked tough about failing schools. But his record during his first three years is zero. A striking contrast to the strides Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has made since winning office in 2010.
Last August, Cuomo hit a rhetorical extreme, warning that schools that did not improve would get the “death penalty.” But four months later, on December 15, the state Education Commissioner John King admitted he saw little hope that the steps being taken since that threat could turn these schools around.