Spin Cycle

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ALBANY - ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's approval ratings have hit an all-time low in the Quinnipiac University poll, apparently because of his fight over education and standardized testing, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The job-approval rating for Cuomo, a Democrat, dipped to 50 percent -- the lowest since he first took office in January 2011, according to a Quinnipiac survey of voters from March 11-16, and 39 percent said they disapproved of how he is performing. His approval rating declined 8 percentage points since December.

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The same survey found that 63 percent of New York voters disapprove of Cuomo's handling of education, compared with 28 percent who approve.

The governor, Quinnipiac said, is "losing the school battle to teachers' unions."

Cuomo "gets his lowest grade on education, which is the top priority for voters, a grade so bad it pulls down his whole drop approval score," said Quinnipiac poll spokesman Maurice Carroll. He called Cuomo's 50 percent rating "tepid, but not awful."

Carroll, noting that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also is battling the teachers' unions, said the strategy might not be bad for either governor in the long run.

Cuomo, re-elected in November, began his second term fighting with the teachers unions -- which declined to endorse him last year. He vowed to overturn a teacher evaluation system that he and lawmakers installed just two years earlier, saying that results showing 98 percent of teachers as effective were "baloney." He's also pushed to increase the number of publicly funded, privately run charter schools and to allow state takeovers of "underperforming" pubic schools.

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In return, unions began airing commercials blasting Cuomo, though they've since stopped.

The governor said the polls reflect ongoing conflict about the state budget, adding that opponents are attacking his policies through media blitzes.

"This is a contentious period," Cuomo said. "It's stirring that pot of opposition. It's very much the nature of the beast."

But the fight "is taking its toll" on Cuomo, the Quinnipiac report said.

Cuomo wants to tie 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation to students' scores on standardized tests -- up from the current 20 percent.

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That's unpopular with voters. According to Quinnipiac, 71 percent oppose basing the ratings on test scores while 28 percent favor it. Further, 55 percent of voters said they trusted the teachers' unions on education, compared with 28 percent trusting Cuomo.