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Cuomo, Astorino spar on Common Core, state budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses the on-time 2014-2015 state

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses the on-time 2014-2015 state budget at LIU-Post University in Brookville on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that a deal to delay the impacts of Common Core academic standards for students, but not for teachers, would quell the statewide unrest and anxiety over the new curriculum.

The governor said he might revisit the issue for teachers later in the legislative session. And while the Democrat took a budget victory lap, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, who has been trying to label the controversial academic standards "Cuomo's Common Core," said the governor's approach would do little to help students and parents.

Cuomo and Astorino offered contrasting views of the state budget just hours after rank-and-file legislators passed the $138-billion financial plan.

Cuomo touted the plan at a signing ceremony at the State Capitol and an afternoon event at LIU-Post in Brookville. The fact that lawmakers adopted a budget on time for the fourth straight year, he said, is a "great moment of progress" for state government.

"This four in a row is a symbol of a government turnaround," the Democrat said.

Among the highlights, Cuomo plugged tax cuts for businesses and manufacturing, an overall 5 percent boost in education spending and startup money for full-day prekindergarten, among other things.

The governor also praised a nonmonetary provision: delaying the impact of Common Core tests.

Under a deal approved by the Senate and Assembly, Common Core-aligned tests for students in grades 3 through 8 won't be included on their transcripts through 2018. Further, school districts can't use the scores as the sole way to determine student placement.

The governor asserted the delay would ease the statewide unrest and anxiety over the new curriculum. "I think that parents can now exhale. Students can now exhale," Cuomo said. "The test scores don't count."

The delay doesn't apply to teacher evaluations. But Cuomo said he might revisit the issue later in the legislative session -- even though he resisted Assembly Democrats' idea to make the idea apply to teachers.

"We have to deal with the issue of the effect of Common Core testing on teacher evaluations," Cuomo said at a budget news conference. "If you say Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers' evaluation and what should be done? That is an issue that we have not addressed and we need to address before the end of the session, in my opinion."

Astorino, in Albany for a gun-rights rally and radio interviews, said Cuomo at first embraced Common Core, then "all of a sudden put his finger in the wind" and discovered the frustration with it.

Astorino also called a gun law Cuomo signed in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre a "bad law" that "needs to be scrapped." And the Republican said the budget was filled with "gimmicks."

"We'll start with the property-tax gimmick rebate checks that I'm assuming will not only have Andrew Cuomo's name on it, but maybe his face smiling on it in October," Astorino said. "That does nothing, nothing to change to the equation."

Cuomo dismissed the Republican's criticism. "Yeah? That's nice," the governor said.

At LIU-Post, Cuomo told a crowd over more than 200 at the university's Tilles Performing Arts Center that the spending was a "good, smart and balanced budget."

"In many ways it is the culmination of what we've done for the past four years," he said.

With Robert Brodsky


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