Attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo unveils his

Photo by: Marc Fader

Attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo unveils his “urban agenda” at New York City Hall last week. In a campaign dominated by Carl Paladino’s personality and the issues of fiscal prudence and government reform, education has received short shrift.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s 2010 campaign for governor has been distinguished by an unusual degree of discretion: The candidate does not plan to debate one-on-one against his chief rival, Carl Paladino. He has not held widely publicized press conferences or other events to advance his agenda, and his office is notoriously reluctant to respond to requests for interviews. Most prominently, his team has articulated few specific strategies to achieve the five main goals in Cuomo’s policy paper (the campaign refers to it as a “book”) “Build a New New York.” The goals themselves—fiscal efficiency and ridding Albany of graft and gridlock—are unassailable, but actual, concrete proposals on how to achieve the ends Cuomo desires are not explicit in his campaign materials or his public comments.

Cuomo’s five-point plan merely glances at education reform, a startling gloss, given the issue’s prominence in Washington, Albany, and at City Hall. It’s doubly startling given New York State’s second-round Race to the Top win, and the political and financial support Cuomo has drawn from prominent pro-school choice/pro-charter organizations like Democrats for Education Reform. Set against the context of his first run for governor in 2002, when Cuomo championed universal preschool and literacy as vital education efforts, the candidate seems to have shifted his focus away from the classroom to matters economic.

Two weeks before election day, aides to Cuomo said his education policy “book,” which would detail education reform policies in specific, was forthcoming. Voters went to the polls with no such report being issued by the campaign.

Improving return on investment

Schools in New York are richly funded, Cuomo says, but earn low marks for achievement. “We are number one in spending in the nation, and number 40 in terms of performance,” he stated in the seven-candidate “debate” held on Oct 18th at Hofstra University. To cure the funding excess, he proposes economies of consolidation and management, alleviating unspecified “unfunded mandates,” and the imposition of a 2 percent cap on the growth of local property taxes—a restriction that will leave barely enough to meet individual districts’ payroll, pension, and healthcare obligations, according to Tim Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association, which represents 700 public-school boards (and thus, about half of New York State’s elected officials).