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Things are cooking

Rep. Peter King speaks at the Jewish Community

Rep. Peter King speaks at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island in Plainview on April 15. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

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Daily Point

Ballot lines drawn

Too bad a federal appeals court Tuesday denied Ed Walsh’s request for cash bail while he appeals his fraud conviction.

Now the former head of the Suffolk County Conservative Party will miss the fireworks Wednesday night as insurgents try to take control of the party from his acolytes.

The challenge to current chairman Frank Tinari will take place at the biannual party organizational meeting, which will be held at the IBEW union hall in Hauppauge.

Kenneth Auerbach, a former leader from Brookhaven who first challenged Tinari for control two years ago because of Walsh and Tinari endorsement deals with Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Schaffer, said the location supports his case. “The Conservative Party has never held its meetings at a union hall before. Usually it’s a church basement or a catering hall,” he told The Point.

Several hundred delegates are expected, and who gets in the room is critical, which makes the location all the more interesting. Two years ago, Tinari would allow only a voice vote for party chair, which Auerbach called a sham in an unsuccessful lawsuit. He recently lost a court case demanding a roll-call vote or a court monitor at Wednesday night’s gathering.

Auerbach said he doesn’t object to the party’s cross-endorsements of candidates if the candidate has a compatible ideological outlook. “We want to support candidates who support the Conservative Party platform and not give our ballot line out for anyone’s personal benefit,” he said.

Confrontations on Wednesday might stem from a base even more disgusted by the 2018 endorsement deals, but the outcome of the organizational vote will not unravel them. “That ship has sailed,” one party leader said.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Sizing up the competition

The influential Cook Political Report has changed its prediction of the outcome of Rep. Peter King’s re-election bid from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Its rationale?

Cook analyst David Wasserman tells The Point that the national mood is bad for Republicans, and individual House polls have shown Democrats gaining ground since Labor Day.

Wasserman said Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley has been an able fundraiser — her campaign has raised more than $1 million, a spokeswoman says — and she launched cable-TV ads before King despite the fact that she has less money.

The Cook rating change comes with a long explanation of the outlines of the race, casting it in the national trend of “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-style” outsiders running against career politicians. By Wednesday afternoon, Grechen Shirley’s campaign had put out a news release celebrating the rating change and adding more local reasons that it believes the race is competitive: high turnout in the September Democratic primary, and the victory of Democratic Assemb. Christine Pellegrino in a 2017 special election.

The change also brings the 2nd Congressional District in line with Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s race against Democrat Perry Gershon in the neighboring 1st District, which Cook has rated as “likely Republican” since the beginning of the cycle. That race has recently featured plenty of drama of its own: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee moved the district into its top tier this month, and on Wednesday, President Donald Trump graced Zeldin with a full-throated endorsement on Twitter.

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

A different interpretation

Final Point

The trouble with test scores

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Wednesday explained the results of state tests given to third- through eighth-graders in a conference call that The Point was on.

What’s astonishing is how much the results don’t tell us.

  • Because the tests in math and English went from three days each in spring 2017 to two days each in spring 2018, the scores from the two years are not considered comparable, although pretty much every chart the state Education Department shared compared the scores with 2017. Elia said scores from 2018 will form a new baseline with which to compare scores for 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the state will adopt yet another set of standards, and yet another new baseline will invalidate comparisons to previous years.
  • Because so many students opted out of the tests — 18 percent statewide (down about one percentage point) and 49 percent on Long Island (also down about one point) — the results don’t give the state nearly as much information as it would like about the percentage of students who are proficient at grade level on a state, district or school level. While it’s clear that the biggest opt-out percentages come from Long Island and from medium-needs school districts, it’s not clear how the data would be affected if more children took the tests.
  • Because of the opt-outs, the equity in education outcomes among racial, ethnic and wealth cohorts (a purpose of the testing Elia stressed) can’t be pinned down as well as the department would like. It’s very difficult to compare the effectiveness of the education different groups get if a large percentage of one such group — mostly suburban, often white kids from middle-income-dominated districts — opts out.

The results do give us one amazing fact: Students previously identified as English language learners did better than the state’s native English speakers as a whole. Students previously identified as ELL, who are not any longer, outperformed non-ELL students by seven percentage points in math, and eight points in English.

Lane Filler

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