Former U.S. Education Secretary John King has been named SUNY...

Former U.S. Education Secretary John King has been named SUNY chancellor. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images/NurPhoto

Daily Point

King’s ex-foes mostly optimistic on SUNY appointment

When newly named SUNY Chancellor John King left his role as state education commissioner for Washington in 2014, he was licking his wounds from fierce battles over Common Core, standardized testing and teacher performance evaluations.

But Monday’s announcement of his return was mostly met with positivity, even from educators who’d opposed his stances on K-12 issues. How long will the honeymoon last?

King left to become United States deputy secretary of education, then in 2016 was confirmed as secretary after his nomination by President Barack Obama. He’s since served as president of The Education Trust, a nonprofit that works to close opportunity and achievement gaps in education. He took a leave this year to run for governor in Maryland, but failed to win the Democratic nod.

King’s time with the state Education Department was marked by brutal battles with teachers unions over performance evaluations and New York’s early and hurried rollout of Common Core. Dealing with New York State United Teachers will again be a big part of his role; United University Professions, which counts 40,000 SUNY employees as members, falls under its purview.

But NYSUT president Andy Pallotta took a welcoming tone Monday in a statement, saying, “We will work with Chancellor King to ensure that our campuses and the educators serving on them receive the critical funding and support they deserve as we continue to push toward a common goal.”

Long Island Regent Roger Tilles, often diametrically opposed to King on standardized testing and teacher performance evaluations, called King “very capable” and said, “I think a lot of John King and like him very much.” But Tilles also said King’s passion for high-stakes testing and charter schools, which SUNY can license, could put him at odds with the Regents.

SUNY Board chair Merryl Tisch has always been a supporter of King. She was the Board of Regents chair when he became commissioner, and took as many hits as he did in the schools battles a decade ago. But in a conversation with The Point Monday, she said she expects those fights to be forgotten and called dwelling on them “a luxury” no one can afford.

“There’s a lot to do, in a state that ought to be the gold standard for public universities,” Tisch said. “We are the Empire State. We need to provide excellence and equity in the same setting, which is a huge challenge.”

Farmingdale State College president John Nader said King won’t face problems from his history in the state, but from the extraordinary difficulties of the role.

“This is absolutely one of the hardest jobs in the state of New York,” Nader told The Point, as illustrated by the fact that including current interim Chancellor Deborah Stanley, King will be the fourth SUNY leader since Nancy Zimpher departed in 2017.

“You have multiple constituencies facing enormous challenges. You have to be politically astute, and academically polished. And you are charged with providing affordability, access and excellence, a very difficult needle to thread,” Nader said. “It’s important to have a successful chancellor to oversee what could be the best university system in the nation. But that means running research institutions, two- and four-year universities, and teaching hospitals. I don’t think any other state has all that.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Taxing the wealthy

A Monday rally in Mineola included chants of “tax the rich and house the poor,” stories about the economic difficulty of life in New York, and — crucially — calls for Gov. Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature to use tax policy to raise more revenue from the wealthy.

It was part of the launch of the Invest in Our New York campaign before the 2023 legislative session, during which advocates are floating revenue-raising policies like an extended corporate tax rate, an overhaul of the state’s inheritance tax, and a so-called “mark-to-market” tax on accumulated wealth.

What’s noteworthy about this push from the state’s activist left is that a previous Invest in Our New York campaign in 2021 resulted in some budget wins, including an increase in tax rates for those earning more than $1 million, and new tax brackets for those even higher up the chain. That previous success sets the stage for the coalition’s current push to be a measure of Hochul’s budget this time around, her first after being elected governor.

There were many different factors in play in 2021. The pandemic was raging at a higher level, which made economic suffering particularly obvious. Money was coming from the federal government. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was at the wheel of budget discussions, and it wasn’t his strongest year in that position, given the cascading sexual misconduct and nursing home COVID-19 death scandals that would contribute to his resignation later in the year. And the Invest coalition — which included the Center for Popular Democracy, Make The Road New York, New York Communities for Change, and others — was fairly active, featuring over 950,000 calls to New Yorkers and their representatives, over 100 phone banks, more than 120,000 door-hangers distributed, and 20-plus news conference, rallies and marches, according to a 2021 memo from the coalition.

This year, the economic picture remains cloudy with threats of getting worse. And Hochul is fresh off a close election, which can be interpreted in different ways. Some on the left have been taking credit for the energy that boosted her in the final weeks, and want their payoff now. Others point to the way that some new policies from the New York left — bail overhauls, for example — hurt Democrats in swing or moderate suburban areas like Long Island, where down-ballot Democrats got trampled. While the Invest campaign drew vocal supporters like State Sens. Jabari Brisport and Jessica Ramos to the City Hall launch event in Manhattan, no elected officials partook in the Mineola edition.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A sad chapter

Credit: Weyant

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Quick Points

What the numbers say

  • It took Suffolk County more than four hours to fully shut down its computer networks after officials realized the county was suffering a cyberattack. Say what you want but don’t say you’re surprised.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis beats former President Donald Trump in lots of head-to-head polling, but GOP leaders gravitating to DeSantis might be more influenced by a new national poll by Marquette Law School that found him in a 42-42 tie with President Joe Biden while Trump trails Biden, 44-34. Everyone loves a winner.
  • China is relaxing some of its strict pandemic restrictions, no longer requiring a negative COVID-19 test to ride on public transportation though one is still needed to enter a mall. China’s malls must be more crowded than American ones.
  • The Transportation Security Administration has been testing facial recognition technology for passenger screening at 16 major U.S. airports to compare travelers’ faces with photo IDs to make sure they are not impostors. Show of hands if you think your passport or driver’s license photo looks like you.
  • Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), asked about former President Donald Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution, said, “He says a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to happen. So you’ve got to [separate] facts from fantasy.” Whom exactly was Joyce talking to — the questioner or Trump?
  • After Democrats moved their presidential primary calendar away from first-in-the-nation Iowa, GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said, “I feel that Democrats have really given middle America the middle finger.” No, senator, it was just Iowa.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff will no longer be on the House Intelligence Committee if McCarthy becomes speaker, saying if Democrats are “going to be political individuals, then no, they should not” be on the panel. By that standard, he’s going to have a hard time finding people from his own party for the committee.
  • He was an ad man who used a monk to sell a copy machine and more memorably sold all of us on a maxim he coined: “If you see something, say something.” RIP, Allen Kay.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie


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