ALBANY – Hoping to capitalize on anger by parents and teachers across the state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said he is seeking to form a Stop Common Core ballot line in his campaign to unseat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in November.
While Astorino insisted that the new line is about giving voters an opportunity to send a message about undoing the controversial Common Core standards in New York’s schools, the effort would give him a third ballot line – in addition to Republican and Conservative – in his uphill battle against Cuomo.
Astorino, the father of three young children who will all be in elementary school this fall, said Common Core has already proved to be a failure both for students and teachers. The state this year, with Cuomo’s blessing, has delayed the timetable for when standardized test scores will be used to evaluate students and teachers on everything from grade advancement to job performance.
“It’s about making a major statement in this state … that the Common Core is not what people think it is,” Astorino said Tuesday at a news conference in Albany with several parents who oppose the Common Core standards and curriculum.
Astorino did not specifically say what he would do to replace Common Core but noted that the Board of Regents was already well on its way to implementing rigorous educational standards when the state turned to Common Core after the federal government “dangled” hundreds of millions of dollars in funding in return.
He said he will soon be unveiling his campaign’s education proposals, including an alternative to Common Core.
Astorino is clearly hoping to tap into a high-profile issue that is on the minds of parents and teachers throughout New York. On the campaign trail, Astorino, the Westchester County executive, says, he hears three major topics raised by voters: New York’s high tax levels, the still-controversial Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act and Common Core. He said the debate over Common Core has united liberals and conservatives.
The GOP candidate used his oft-repeated “Cuomo’s Common Core” description. He said he uses the label because the governor has repeatedly said he supports Common Core, though not the way the state Education Department and Board of Regents went about implementing the program.
“He owns it. It’s his,” Astorino said of Cuomo.
The Stop Common Core ballot line effort began Tuesday and will need the valid signatures of at least 15,000 registered voters in New York. It would add another minor-party line to the ballot for statewide candidates, and the sheets that voters are being asked to sign for Stop Common Core feature all the statewide Republican candidates – for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller – as the slate for the proposed line.
Astorino said he has seen with his own children the impact of Common Core, noting that their school district spent six weeks preparing for Common Core-based tests during this past school year. That cut into time for art, gym and other classes, Astorino said, and hurt the performance of many students.
He dismissed – in advance – critics who might say his call to end Common Core means a bid to relax educational standards for children, saying such a claim is “meant to cover up what has been a disaster.” He noted that the state’s Regents diploma was once “the gold standard” in the nation and that Common Core has undermined the reputation of a New York education.
The governor has said Common Core is needed to boost various ways in which student performance is evaluated in New York, which he has routinely criticized for lagging behind other states.
“The Common Core has been adopted by 45 states and will serve as the basis for the new SAT. These more rigorous standards will be used to help New York students better prepare for college and career,” said Peter E. Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “Rob Astorino’s pathetic pandering will do nothing more than make New York students less competitive than their peers nationally.”