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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Education looms large in NYC mayoral contest

Students at Robert Seamans Elementary School, at 137

Students at Robert Seamans Elementary School, at 137 Leahy St. in Jericho, take an exam. (Jan. 9, 2006) Credit: Alan Raia

Because New York City constitutes one massive school district -- controlled by one powerful mayor -- the race to succeed Michael Bloomberg looms large for its education system, and indirectly, the state's.

In election forums around the city this season, candidates for mayor are reliably rewarded with applause when they rebuke current exam practices -- echoing a similar sense of parental backlash on Long Island and around the region.

Before a Democratic club in Manhattan last week, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said the schools "must simply stop teaching to the test. The school system is praying to a false idol of standardized testing."

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who also once led the now-defunct Board of Education, later declared: "For years I've said that standardized testing, the way it's being used, and this focus on teaching to the test, is a mistake."

And former high-school teacher and City Councilman Sal Albanese said: "I don't believe in high-stakes testing. We all support ending that."

Even Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), long allied with Bloomberg, has talked about a reduced emphasis on testing, as has Comptroller John Liu.


DOWN BALLOT: Might the county comptroller's race offer a better chance for out-of-power Nassau Democrats next fall than the county executive election? Some party members seem to think so, noting first-term GOP Comptroller George Maragos' two failed attempts in three years to move up to U.S. senator, and his alliance with the Mangano administration.

Potential challengers Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) and former comptroller Howard Weitzman have been attacking Maragos in public pronouncements.

Voters statewide long had a collective habit of electing a governor and comptroller of opposite parties. With this year's races still forming, there's no telling if a similar split could occur in Nassau.

STILL STANDING: Politics is full of people who were widely supposed to leave by now. Loose talk of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo somehow shoving Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) out the door comes and goes -- a cycle now in its fourth year. Senior Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) has been written off several times since 2008, having gotten into ethics trouble and lost his committee chairmanship. Detractors routinely classify GOP chairman Edward Cox as toast. In November, the early odds had U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder moving on. He hasn't.

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