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New Yorkers Call for an Immediate Independent Investigation of Governor Cuomo for Unconstitutional Interference in Education Policy & Violations of NY State Public Officer Ethics Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  January 21, 2015
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – >www.nysape.org

 
New Yorkers Call for an Immediate Independent Investigation of Governor Cuomo for Unconstitutional Interference in Education Policy & Violations of NY State Public Officer Ethics Law

Governor Andrew Cuomo will address New Yorkers today in his State of the State address which will reveal his education reform agenda, an agenda which amounts to an unconstitutional attempt to seize power and interfere with education policy in New York State.

New Yorkers across the state are rising up to show their dissatisfaction with the Governor’s misguided education agenda, including NYSAPE’s advocacy campaign that generated over a quarter of a million letters to Albany.

In the months leading up to today’s address, Cuomo has made it clear his agenda, and that of his backers, is to assume control of education in New York, going so far as to call local control of democratically governed schools a “monopoly” that must be broken up.  The governor has also vowed to expand the growth of privately owned and operated charter schools, schools that are not beholden to public oversight.

In response, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) calls for an independent investigation of Cuomo’s interference with education policy, violations of NYS Public Officer Ethics Law, and failure to uphold his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the State of New York.

Governor Does Not Have Oversight of Education Under NYS Constitution:  Attempts to Direct Education Agenda Tied to Budget is Unconstitutional

For over two hundred years, the New York State Constitution has ensured a very healthy separation of powers.   In New York, a governor controls the majority of state agencies, and as a check and balance, requires the Senate to approve any leaders the governor seeks to appoint.  Our predecessors, in their wisdom, drafted a NYS Constitution that explicitly put education under the control of a board and branch of government most representative of the people: the Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the NYS Legislature.  As a check and balance, the Legislature can increase or reduce the power of the Regents. 

“The separation of power for education in the New York State Constitution was done to ensure that the agenda of a handful of individuals did not wreak havoc over the education of the children by allowing political agendas to play out in classrooms over the outcries of parents,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founder.

Any efforts to direct education policy in the Governor’s proposed budget is a refusal to uphold the NYS Constitution and the oath of office of governor.

Violation of Public Officer Ethics Laws:  Contributions from Backers and Cozy Relationships with Business Interests Create Conflicts of Interest and the Appearance of Conflicts
NYSAPE contends that by accepting contributions linked to charter school legislation and maintaining cozy relationships with education technology business interests, the Governor has created both conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts, violations of the public trust and ethics laws.  


Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder said, “After Governor Cuomo received a sizable donation from a well known charter school backer and former hedge fund manager on March 4, and the very same day the governor spoke at apro-charter rally in Albany, parents were suspicious. Our suspicions were borne out when by the end of the month the Governor had pushed through a bill giving charter schools in New York City some of the strongest protections in the country. Our Governor has clearly aligned himself with those who seek to use their wealth and influence to privatize public education in New York State.” Deutermann went on to say, “This is not the only example of Governor Cuomo’s blatant disregard for New York State’s Public Officer Law and Code of Ethics, which contain several clauses that prohibit conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflict.”

 “After proposing a statewide school technology bond this summer, the Governor appointed California resident Eric Schmidt (who also happens to be the Executive Chairman of Google) to one of three advisory positions on the bond.   Not surprisingly, the advisory committee’s report indicated that one primary potential use of money from the bond would be to acquire “desktop, laptop, or tablet computers.”Smart Schools Commission Report)   While many point out that the technology purchased with bond proceeds has a far shorter shelf life than the time required to repay the bond, who sells notebook computers to schools throughout New York State, will undoubtedly benefit,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

Parents across the state also recall Andrew Cuomo’s Blue Ribbon Education Commission, a group that ignored calls for parental consent of student data collection. That commission invited a Washington lobbyist that distributes model student data privacy legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This ALEC “model” legislation ignores the rights of parents and does not require parental consent for student data profiling and sharing.

“ALEC’s values are simply not aligned with those of the people of New York, and their lack of support for parental consent for student data profiling is alarming.  Even more alarming is the fact that Andrew Cuomo would seek advice from those aligned with ALEC over the advice of parents,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent and Schools of Thought Hudson Valley NY founder.

NYSAPE Calls for Independent Investigation

As a result of Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to interfere with education policy, the conflicts that surround his misguided agenda, and an unconstitutional attempt to direct education policy, NYSAPE calls for an immediate and independent investigation into the education related activities of the governor.  

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