Cuomo challenger pushes for new Common Core party

by |
08/03/2014 12:00 PM |
Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (right) at a Common Core forum last year in Eastport. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (right) at a Common Core forum last year in Eastport. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

There may be another party line on the November ballot for state office seekers.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the GOP challenger facing Governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming election, has launched a petition effort to establish a Stop Common Core party line focused on capturing voters unhappy with the controversial Common Core State Standards initiative. 

If approved, the new line would apply only to state races.

Common Core is a set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction. It primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age and is intended to better prepare them for college and careers.

“Cuomo’s Common Core is destroying our education system and hurting our children,” Mr. Astorino said on his website about the importance of the new party line. “Cuomo’s Common Core has been a disaster for parents, teachers and children alike.”

Mr. Cuomo, who’s working to establish a Women’s Equality party line, conceded earlier this year that implementation of Common Core had been flawed and later reached a compromise with legislators to delay and restrict certain elements of the program, like testing and teacher evaluations.

Last month, legislation passed by the state Senate and Assembly will postpone some of the effects of the Common Core curriculum on teachers until the 2015-16 school year.

North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who co-sponsored a previous proposal called the Apple Plan that called for a three-year moratorium on Common Core, described the new agreement as a “very limited modification.”

“They took pieces of what they thought might placate some of the people, but it still hasn’t gotten down to the ultimate answer, which is how we’re best going to implement this to help the kids,” Mr. Palumbo said. “We don’t want to let the governor get away with his kind of half-cocked modification of it to basically get him through the election and get him off to the 2016 presidential campaign.

“We want to implement what is really the best for the students, teachers and administrators,” the assemblyman said.

As parents and educators statewide continue to protest so-called high-stakes testing tied to Common Core, politicians this election season are tapping into voters’ frustration with how the curriculum was rolled out.

Riverhead Republican Committee chairman Mason Haas said many members of his group oppose the implementation of Common Core and are helping with Mr. Astorino’s petition effort to get the new party line on the ballot.

Mr. Haas said he believes a Stop Common Core line will be attractive to both Republicans and Democrats, since issues with the curriculum’s rollout are universal.

“If we’re going to start a new curriculum, we should have started with integrating the program in first grade,” he said. “There are a lot of people angry across party lines.”

The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in an attempt to better prepare students in each state for college and post-high school careers.

The federal government incentivized adoption of the Common Core at the state level through its Race to the Top grants program, which garnered New York State $700 million that was then distributed to school districts. The state directed all New York school districts to develop their own teacher evaluation systems tied to assessments or risk losing state aid.

The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them.

As for establishing a new party line, Mr. Palumbo said he believes Stop Common Core has a good chance.

“I hope it makes it to the ballot because I think it’s going to have significant effect on the November election,” he said. “People are still very vigorous [in their opposition to Common Core] and, like we say, once you get the mommies angry, watch out.”

Former Southold Republican Committee chairman Denis Noncarrow, an outspoken local critic of the standards, said he’s not sure a new party line would make much of a difference in the effort to halt Common Core entirely.

The Peconic parent said he’s so outraged by Common Core that he plans to start home schooling his son this fall instead of having him enter fourth grade at Southold Elementary School.

“It’s horrendous,” he said of the new curriculum. “Even the Southold Board of Education is trying to fight it.”

jennifer@timesreview.com