I wrote yesterday of how the timidity of our unions to take on Governor Cuomo stokes his bullying tendencies, the latest example being his announcement that he will submit a plan for an even stronger evaluation system for teachers than the one he caused to become current law.
Desperate to gain some traction in an underfunded, somewhat pointless campaign, Republican Rob Astorino hoping to capitalize on teacher anger at Cuomo wrote an open letter to teachers taking Cuomo to task for denigrating them and reminding us that his wife is a special ed teacher and telling us that although we won’t always agree, he will be nicer to us than Angry Andy. Howie Hawkins, consistent with his thoroughly pro teacher pro public education positions also wrote, criticizing Cuomo gratuitous attack on teacher and our unions.
NYSUT officers, who engineered a position of no endorsement in the race for governor, responded to these letters with what has got to be one of the futilely silly efforts in our union’s history. They issued a series of letters, tweets, emails and Facebook postings thanking both Astorino and Hawkins for standing up for public education. The net result of these efforts is to put the union’s imprimatur on a vote for Astorino, a man with an arch conservative record, a politician who I heard many times excoriated by NYSUT Board members from his area, and, if I’m not mistaken, by Karen Magee herself before she was elected NYSUT president. This “anyone but Cuomo” message is neither principled nor smart.
If the NYSUT officers are remorseful over their failure to endorse in the race for governor, it would surely make more sense to encourage a vote for a candidate whose positions on education issues almost mirrors NYSUT policy, and whose positions on environmental and social issues parallels NYSUT’s social justice efforts. Howie Hawkins is that candidate. Such a response has many advantages. It says to the political world that we are going to support people who support our needs and beliefs and that our votes can no longer be taken for granted. Perhaps even more importantly, a shift away from the Albany insider political game to a politics that embraces our ideals could offer us a real opportunity to re-energize the waning desire of our member to engage in politics and sadly to even bother to vote. Howie Hawkins and the Green Party gave us this opportunity, but our leaders in Albany are saying a vote for Astorino is just as good. I profoundly disagree with them!