Home > Uncategorized > Blogger Carol Burris Connects the Dots Between NYS Certification Proposal, Cuomo’s Campaign Contribution, and Charters

Blogger Carol Burris Connects the Dots Between NYS Certification Proposal, Cuomo’s Campaign Contribution, and Charters

August 4, 2017

Carol Burris, a retired NYS administrator, public school advocate (she is the ED of the Network for Public Education), and prolific and well-researched blogger, connected the dots between a proposal to allow charters to certify their own teachers and campaign contributions to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the picture is, alas, unsurprising.

Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss provides the background to Ms. Burris’ post, which includes an overview of the existing and admittedly convoluted governance structure in NYS:

In New York state, most teachers of publicly funded schools have to be certified through a state-run process. Now, that may change.

Many of the state’s publicly funded charter schools may soon have the right to certify their own teachers with their own processes. (In some states, charter school teachers don’t have to be certified at all.)

The specific proposal is being considered by the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) and a decision will be made shortly. The trustees oversee the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which authorizes a good number of charter school operators in the state, including the well-known Success Academies charter network.

New York charter leaders, some of whom have been pushing for the right to certify their own teachers for a long time, argue that it will help them solve teacher shortages and give them more flexibility over whom to hire.

Betty Rosa, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, which supervises public education in the state, said in an interview that while she supports alternative routes to teacher certification, she opposes the proposal. One reason, she said, is that teachers certified by individual charter schools will not be considered certified in any other public school in the state, and, she said, would be trapped. She also said charter schools have more of a problem with retaining teachers than with attracting them. The Regents, however, have no operational authority over the SUNY board as it makes policy for the charter schools it authorizes.

The Governor, however, appoints the Regents and the SUNY Board and will have some influence on the decision regarding certification… and, as Ms. Burris illustrates, the donors to his campaign are likely to have some influence on his thinking as well:

Let’s look at the confluence of Cuomo-appointed SUNY board members to large contributions of charter boards to Cuomo’s campaigns[1].

The corporation with the largest number of charter schools under the control of the SUNY Charter School Institute is the Success Academy charter chain, run by Eva Moskowitz.  Her political action committee, the Great Public Schools PAC, contributed $65,000 to Cuomo in 2011-2012 and another $50,000 to date in 2017. Success Academy Chairman Daniel Loeb, founder and chief executive of Third Rock Capital, and his wife, have directly contributed over $133,000 to Cuomo. Since 2015, Loeb has added $300,000 to Moskowitz’s PAC, and another $270,000 to other PACs that support Cuomo. That’s more than $700,000.

Other Success Academy present or former board member families who contributed over $100,000 either directly to, or to PACS, supporting Cuomo include: Andrew and Dana Stone ($280,000), Bruce Kovner ($130,000); Joel and Julia Greenblatt ($280,000), John and Regina Scully of California ($110,000), John Petry ($130,000) and Daniel Nir and his wife Jill Braufman ($152,500). An additional nine other Success Academy Board members, including three who live outside New York state, collectively contributed hundreds of thousands directly or indirectly to Cuomo. Most of the contributions are direct donations.

The Success Board is only one example of many. Paul Tudor Jones is the founder of Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant, which is also authorized by the SUNY Charter Board. He and his wife, who both live in Connecticut, contributed $400,000,  with most of the contributions going into PACs that gave to the governor. Even the charter-loving Waltons, who don’t live in New York, have jumped in — nearly $100,000 in direct contributions to Cuomo and over $100,000 into PACs. And it doesn’t end there. Charter board members from the Harlem Children’s Zone to Hebrew Academy Charter Schools contribute large sums of money to Cuomo.

I stopped adding the numbers once I got past $2,000,000. Public education funding is deficient in NYS, but campaign contributions are flourishing… and, alas, Governor Cuomo is being mentioned as a viable candidate to oppose President Trump. By the end of President Trump’s first term we will have experienced two decades of test-and-punish “reform” and the consequential de-funding of public schools that results from this approach. The replacement of a President Trump with a President Cuomo, Booker, or even Biden will not make a difference… because the pro-charter donors will get the ear of any of those candidates. The children raised in poverty will continue to suffer.



  1. Elyssa Gersen-Thurman
    August 4, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I sent a letter to Cuomo to make my voice heard. I am not sure if that will make a difference, but at least I’m going on record.

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