New York’s top Republican on Monday called a powerful teachers’ union one of the “forces of evil.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, appearing on a public radio program, criticized the New York State United Teachers for its seven-figure campaign effort to end Republican control of the State Senate.
“You have incumbents who are in tough races and you have what I describe as outside forces, some of them now have become almost like the forces of evil, spending millions and millions of dollars,” Flanagan (R-East Northport) said on The Capitol Pressroom.
Asked by host Susan Arbetter who he was talking about, Flanagan said NYSUT.
“I believe that what NYSUT has demonstrated is what they want is one-party rule,” Flanagan said. “They gratuitously go after members of our conference. They’ve gone after me.”
The union has bitterly criticized the Senate leader for bottling up a bill to end linkage between students’ test scores on standardized tests and teachers’ evaluations, and has followed through on a vow to spend heavily to oust Republicans in the Senate.
Flanagan's comments came three weeks before Election Day, amid a bitter fight for control of the State Senate. The GOP holds a 32-31 advantage in the chamber, the one area of state government the party controls.
NYSUT president Any Pallotta called Flanagan “desperate,” and attacked him again for not allowing a Senate vote on the teacher-evaluation bill.
“He had a chance to stand with teachers by reforming the state’s broken testing and evaluation system, but instead he chose to cozy up to Wall Street billionaires and the charter [school] industry,” Pallotta said.
In June, Flanagan backed a separate proposal on teacher evaluations, but it was linked to an increase in the number of charter schools, which the union and Democrats strongly opposed.
So far, NYSUT has spent about $1.4 million on Senate races this year through “Fighting for Our Future,” one of its political action committees.
Later Monday, Flanagan responded by noting the state Republican Committee has filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections alleging that NYSUT and other unions illegally have coordinated campaign spending efforts with State Senate Democrats. The GOP lodged a similar complaint in 2016.
Senate Democrats seized on Flanagan's remarks. Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), who is locked in a closely watched contest against Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato, a Republican, called Flanagan's comments, "anti-educator."