New York Teachers: I Asked Weingarten About the Hochul Robocall

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten

On April 25 and 26, 2015, I attended the Network for Public Education (NPE) second annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. The Sunday morning keynote was entitled, Diane Ravitch in Conversation with AFT's Randi Weingarten and NEA's Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

The Sunday keynote was not arranged to accommodate audience questions.

Not a problem.

At the end of the session, I was briefly able to interview American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten regarding her September 8, 2014, robocall in support of New York governor Andrew Cuomo's running mate, now-lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul.

I caught Weingarten as she was greeting members of the audience, so when I use the term, "interview," I mean that it was my intention to interview her regarding the robocal, and I did so in the moment, without any warning to Weingarten.

I walked up to the stage and asked, "September 8th, the robocall you did in support of Kathy Hochul: Do you admit that your actions directly contributed to the re-election of Andrew Cuomo?"

Weingarten responded, "No...yes... no. They were separate items on the ballot in the primary."

Me: "So a vote for Hochul was not a vote for Cuomo given that Hochul was Cuomo's running mate?"

Weingarten: "No. They were separate on the ballot."

Me: "One more question: Was it the intention of the Democratic National Party to use the robocall for Hochul as back-door support for Cuomo?"

Weingarten: "No."


On May 21, 2014, Cuomo chose Hochul as his running mate, and on that day, the Democratic ticket was considered "complete":

MELVILLE, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday (May 21) named a former congresswoman from Buffalo to be his running mate, a move that completes the Democratic ticket and underscores his courtship of western New York.

The selection of the former congresswoman, Kathy Hochul, to run for lieutenant governor, which was revealed as Democrats met here for the party's convention, resolved the one lingering unknown about the governor's carefully planned re-election bid. ...

Ms. Hochul adds a measure of diversity to the Democratic Party's statewide ticket....

So. Even though Hochul was listed separately on the ballot in the primary, Weingarten acknowledged in her September 8, 2014, robocall that she was performing the call on behalf of the Democratic Party- and the Democratic Party considered Hochul to complete the Cuomo re-election ticket.

Here is Weingarten's full script, compliments of Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News:

Hi, this is Randi Weingarten- you may know me as the president of the American Federation of Teachers but I'm calling today as a fellow Democrat and delegate to the Democratic National Committee, to urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in Tuesday's Democratic Primary.

I worked closely with Kathy when she was in the Congress. She fought back against extremist Republicans who attacked Medicare, Social Security, affordable healthcare and stood up for public schools, our children, our families and our educators. Her 100 percent pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker pro public school record is exactly what we need in our next Lieutenant Governor.

In Congress, Kathy sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require school districts nationwide to implement anti-bullying policies.‎ Kathy has pledged to help invest in our public schools and expand Universal Pre-K to every region of the state so all of our children get a head start on success.

This is Randi Weingarten and I urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday September 9th. Thanks. [Emphasis added.]

All of that Democratic Party time, effort, and money to promote a lieutenant governor, the official with the lesser power.

Indeed, Hochul has no power to override Cuomo's push for punitive education reform. And it is highly likely that if she were to choose to publicly contradict Cuomo's teacher hatred, she would not last long as his lieutenant.

True, the lieutenant governor of New York has some prescribed duties (e.g., president of the state senate; serving on the court in impeachment trials; sitting on various state boards). Nevertheless, unless the governor chooses to assign additional duties, then the lieutenant governor could just be a "spare" governor "just in case" something happens to the governor.

I even found that two former New York lieutenant governors, Alfred DelBello and Mary Anne Krupsak, resigned because the governors under whom they served (Mario Cuomo and Hugh Carey, respectively) did not "give them enough to do."

Thus, it is safe to surmise that the lieutenant governors are governor-dependent, and they know so.

But let us return to the idea that Weingarten tries to promote: That since the governor and lieutenant governor are separate ballot issues primary elections in New York, then promoting Cuomo's running mate does not necessarily translate into support for Cuomo.

I researched back to the 1950s and could find no instance in which a New York governor and lieutenant governor who both received the Democratic nomination did not both make it successfully through the primary and end up on the same Democratic ticket.

Given Cuomo's publicized hatred for New York teachers, it is logical to conclude that former-teacher Hochul could be used as a convenient token to draw career teacher support for Cuomo, and that both the Democratic Party and Weingarten surely knew as much.

After his re-election, Cuomo declared his own teacher evaluation system weak and pushed for one designed to fire more teachers. Also, via his power over the state budget, he is able to hijack New York education decisions. In a curious decision, NY Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch is apparently defying Cuomo's intent to rid New York of more of its teachers.

But when it comes to Cuomo's intentional actions to tourniquet public education in New York, there is no defiance from Hochul. And that "pro-public-school Hochul" whom Weingarten advertised in that September 8th, 2015, campaign phone call is showing herself to be one of the Cuomo faithful. She publicly supports Cuomo's teacher eval plans, and she criticizes New York parents' opting their children out of state testing, calling such actions a "disservice" because of potential "consequences in the future."

Hochul also supports Cuomo's efforts to expand charter schools in New York.

Thus, she is being what New Yorkers might expect of a lieutenant governor: She is parroting the wishes of the governor...

...the governor who, like Hochul, was officially endorsed by the Democratic Party...

...and who ended up being given a poorly-defended, robocall-boost-by-proxy from AFT President Randi Weingarten.

Modified version originally posted 04-27-15 at

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.