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Flanagan case study
State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has been tested for years on standardized exams and their connection to teacher evaluations. But all of a sudden, it looks like there’s no correct answer for him.
New York State United Teachers has been fighting the law that made student scores on federally mandated tests count for a portion of teacher evaluation scores since it was enacted in 2011, and mostly winning. The union had a big hand in the opt-out movement that now has half of third- through eighth-grade students on Long Island skipping their annual tests, and in 2015 it won a four-year moratorium on the use of tests in teacher evaluations.
Now NYSUT wants the linkage banned by law. The State Assembly has gone for it, which is not surprising. Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have supported testing as a part of performance evaluations. But Cuomo has increasingly backed off, and it appears he would sign a bill delinking the two. And the bill is now co-sponsored by more than 80 percent of the senators, including more than half of Flanagan’s Republican caucus.
It’s a conundrum for Flanagan, with Democrats expected to challenge for control of the Senate in November’s elections. There is little he could do to get NYSUT to support his members, though the union’s opposition might get toned down if he backs off on teacher evaluations. But that could well mean alienating the education reform groups that have supported Flanagan and his members in return for slightly less rabid opposition from NYSUT.
Unfortunately for Flanagan, performance evaluation is one litmus test neither side is willing to grade on a curve.
A sense of identity
Until two weeks ago, Democrat Brad Schwartz was the only candidate trying to unseat freshman State Sen. Elaine Phillips. Then Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan showed up.
Cuomo stepping into the middle of a primary race is unusual, but Schwartz sees it burnishing his badge as an outsider running against the party machine.
“I am running as a candidate who can change the culture of politics; we do have a corrupt process,” he told The Point. Schwartz, who has never run for office, promises to stay in the hunt until the end. “Voters should have a choice. Primaries are healthy,” he said.
Schwartz, a television producer and editor who grew up in Roslyn, said property tax relief and guaranteed health care for all in New York are the key issues in his district. Campaigning since October, Schwartz said residents were receptive to his message that there need to more elected officials who are openly gay, like himself. “Nassau County residents are very socially accepting regardless of their party. I never experienced a homophobic incident here,” he said.
Kaplan ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District two years ago, and burned some bridges with local elected officials who instead supported Tom Suozzi. She was recruited for the Senate challenge in this year-of-the-woman cycle to run against another woman, incumbent Phillips. Said Schwartz about the turn of events, “I would like to see more women elected to office, but I don’t believe in identity politics.”
These roads lead to Israel
In a week when Iran dominated the headlines, Israel and its concerns became a focal point in three New York political campaigns.
At the Jewish Community Council of New York’s gala Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would visit Israel, citing missiles launched at the Golan Heights by Iranian forces in Syria. Tensions have flared since President Donald Trump announced the United States would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
“As long as I am governor of New York, this state stands 100 percent with Israel, and we are proud,” said Cuomo, who has traveled to Israel previously and is looking for support from the issue he can use both in his Democratic primary against Cynthia Nixon and in the general election in November.
Chele Farley, the long-shot Republican candidate challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, traveled to Israel this week to highlight her support for the nation and take shots at her opponent for favoring the Iran deal in 2015 and casting votes Farley says support the Palestinian Authority’s funding of terrorism.
And then Friday, former Rep. Steve Israel invoked Israel while wading into the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary. Israel, who had not planned to endorse in the primary, announced his support for DuWayne Gregory over opponent Liuba Grechen Shirley. Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, lost to Rep. Peter King two years ago.
“In light of Ms. Grechen Shirley’s support of a boycott against Israel, I cannot remain silent,” Israel said in a statement.
It’s safe to assume Israel won’t make support of his namesake nation the main factor in deciding whom to endorse for the general election — because it’s basically impossible to be stronger for Israel than King.