How Charter School Networks Tried To Buy The New York State Legislature

I originally planned to post about the national election results today, but I think it is better to wait until Sunday night so I have a chance to think and teachers, students, and the country as a whole has more of a chance to recover from election shock. Wednesday morning I got "morning after" phone calls and emails from a number of teachers about how to teach about the election results. Some reported they had students, especially Latino students, who were crying in class. My recommendation was to keep themselves and their students calm. No one knows what will happen. Trump himself is erratic. I suggested they use Wednesday and Thursday to analyze vote numbers and exit polls (schools are closed on Friday for Veterans Day), have students do their own research, and prepare lessons for Monday on the implications of the election. So instead of focusing on national events, today's post looks at how Charter School networks worked to elect pro-charter Republicans to the New York State Legislature.

Balance sounds good, right? That's why the pro-charter school network Super-Pac called itself New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany. But they really were not interested in "balance" at all. The Super-Pac, with hedge fund dollars channeled through StudentsFirstNY, a group that wants to remove caps on number of charter schools in the state, spent $5 million promoting Republican candidates who promised to support their single issue agenda.

This is who their money tried to elect and what these candidates stand for.

Balanced Albany paid for over $300,000 in advertisements supporting the re-election of Republican Senator Michael Venditto (Republican-Conservative) to the state senate from Long Island's 8th Senate District. Venditto is highly rated by the American Conservative Union for his support for tuition tax credits that can be used in private and parochial schools, a property tax cap that is starving public schools, a water-down very limited gun reform law, restrictions on welfare recipients, and efforts to block the closing of Guantanamo by refusing to use state funs to house or try detainees in New York facilities. In an online survey Venditto supporters approve of the death penalty, abortion restrictions, and national "stand your ground" legislation, and opposes immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and federal gun regulations.

Balanced Albany also poured millions of dollars into the campaign of North Shore mayor Elaine Phillips (Republican-Conservative) for the State Senate paying for radio and television ads that labeled her opponent as a "tax-loving liberal." Phillips has taken virtually no public positions on issues facing New York and the nation. However she does want to retain the property tax cap that has undermined school funding increases.

Balanced Albany ran similar ads in the 5th, 40th and 41st Senate districts supporting Republican-Conservative Party incumbents, Terrence Murphy, Carl Marcellino, and Sue Serino. Each received high ratings from the American Conservative Union. Serino and Murphy received a 93% rating and an endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

Serino and Murphy were both reelected. But despite Charter Network support, as of this writing, the elections involving Venditto and Marcellino were too close to call. Marcellino held a narrow lead over his Democratic Party opponent and Venditto was trailing by just 33 votes. If The Republicans win either of these seats they, and the Charter School network, will control the New York State Senate.

Nationwide the charter teams also had some major setbacks. In Massachusetts, voters defeated a referendum to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. Charter school groups spent an estimated $26million on their losing campaign. In Georgia, voters defeated a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to take over "chronically failing" public schools. Proponents of the measure, including the governor, want the public schools turned into charters. In Washington, a Bill Gates funded campaign to oust a State Supreme Court judge who issued rulings against charter school expansion and funding was defeated.

Community Forum: Why Is the NAACP Critical of Charter Schools? 6:30PM • Wednesday 16 November @ Medgar Evers College -@Bedford Ave & Crown St in the President's Conference Center B-1008
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