Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino Tuesday unveiled an education plan that calls for replacing the controversial Common Core curriculum, enacting a tax credit that Catholic schools favor and creating a three-diploma system for high school students that increases emphasis on technical training.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tried to sidestep campaign issues, instead holding a briefing about his trip to Israel three weeks ago. He also picked up the endorsements of two unions, the Hotel Trades Council and SEIU/1199, a health care workers group.
Cuomo's opponent in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Zephyr Teachout, was endorsed by the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association while campaigning on Long Island.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, said the state needs to get away from a "one-size-fits-all mentality."
He also called for changing the way state Board of Regents members are selected, so that they are elected instead of appointed by the state legislature -- a move lawmakers would be expected to oppose -- and giving the governor the power to select the state education commissioner.
"This bold plan will replace Common Core with high standards achieved at the local level, with the input of parents and teachers, and it will make the governor's office directly responsible for school improvements through an executive-appointed state education commissioner," Astorino said.
Astorino would create three types of diplomas for high students: an "Academic Regents" diploma that generally mirrors the current diploma; a "STEM" (science, engineering, technical and mathematics) diploma; and a "career and technical education" diploma.
Cuomo has backed the Common Core, but has blasted its rollout by the regents. Cuomo and state legislators passed a law to delay the use of Common Core tests for student assessments, but not teachers.
At a stop at Comsewogue High School, Teachout echoed Astorino's call for halting New York's participation in Common Core, which she called a "disaster."
"We're destroying some of the best parts of public education. Testing does not work," she said.
Teachout, a Fordham University professor, said that unlike Astorino, she would back teacher tenure and increased school funding and oppose privatization.
Cuomo met Tuesday with Jewish community leaders in Manhattan, and afterward tried to deflect reporters' questions about his refusal to debate Teachout.
Asked about the message he was sending to voters, Cuomo said: "I don't think it has anything to do with democracy . . . I've been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy, so anyone who says debates are always a service to democracy hasn't watched all the debates that I've been in."
Cuomo, a heavy favorite in both the primary and general election, sought to dismiss questions about whether a strong showing by a liberal candidate such as Teachout would send a message to his campaign.
"The only difference any of it would make to me is if I don't get 50 percent," of the vote Cuomo said. "That is the only number that is relevant to me."
With Emily Ngo
and Laura Figueroa