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Pols: Reappointment of Regents not assured this time

Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), seen in a June

Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), seen in a June 28, 2012 photo, said legislators want to know where incumbent Regents stand on Common Core “and what can we expect from them down the road” if they are reappointed. (Credit: James Escher)

ALBANY – Rank-and-file legislators said Friday four incumbent Regents could be ousted if the state’s education policymaking board doesn’t act quickly to address the controversial Common Core academic standards, which has raised a furor across New York.

Normally, Regent elections are sleepy affairs, with incumbents reappointed as long as they want to continue serving on New York's education policymaking board. But not this year.

Legislators, who control Regent elections, said there is a growing sentiment to oppose four incumbents up for reappointment if they don’t respond to cries from parents and teachers to address the Common Core. Four of the 16 Regents are up for re-election in March.

"This is real. This will be a year unlike any other," said Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor). “Both sides of the aisle have frustration with the Regents. It’s not going to be routine. I think their re-election is anything but a foregone conclusion.”

Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) said legislators want to know where incumbent Regents stand on Common Core “and what can we expect from them down the road” if they are reappointed.

“There is a fairly strong sentiment among legislators that the answers to those questions will be important to making a determination,” he said.

The Regents are under increasing pressure to tackle Common Core discontent. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo backs the standards but has called implementation “flawed” and on Friday appointed a panel to review the issue.

Days earlier, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) vowed to delay the Common Core at least two years if the Regents don’t. Currently, the Class of 2017 would be the first to have to pass high-school graduation exams based on the Common Core.

This year, two at-large Regent seats are up for election, as well as Albany- and Staten Island-based seats. Roger Tilles, the Long Island representative on the board, is not up for re-election.

Because of the “one person, one vote” process used for Regents, Silver’s Democrat-dominated Assembly effectively controls the selections -- which makes Democrat dissatisfaction significant to the outcome.

Republicans, outnumbered 132-69 in the combined houses of the Legislature, know they can’t sway the vote, but say they are trying to raise awareness.

“There’s a huge amount of interest in the process this year whereas in the past their normally isn’t,” said Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square), ranking Republican on the Assembly Education Committee. “This will not be the same, run-of-the-mill process.” 

Tags: Fred Thiele , Robert Sweeney , Edward Ra , Jeff Klein , Sheldon Silver , Dean Skelos , Board of Regents , Common Core

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