andrew cuomo

Gov. Cuomo continues to bring in money from donors with education ties

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Governor Andrew Cuomo in April.

On the same day a top New York charter school regulator spoke out about needing a funding increase from the state, he sent money to the person with perhaps the most say in the matter.

Joseph Belluck, a high-profile lawyer and SUNY trustee who chairs the committee governing the SUNY Charter School Institute, gave $10,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign, filings released Wednesday show. The contribution is part of $2.4 million in donations Cuomo’s campaign reported receiving over the last six months — a slice of which again came from a cadre of money managers, executives, philanthropists, and lawyers who support charter schools, tougher accountability rules, or weaker job protections for teachers.

Like other donors with ties to education policy, Belluck has given money to Cuomo and other elected officials in the past. And it’s not unusual for powerful policymakers to get involved in politics: Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, for one, was a top fundraiser during New York City’s 2013 mayoral campaign and has contributed more than $65,000 to city campaigns since 1995.

But the timing of Belluck’s most recent donation is notable. Filings show that the transaction happened on June 30, the same day that Belluck showed an uncharacteristic activist streak at the SUNY Charter School Institute’s board meeting. It was the first board meeting since Gov. Cuomo and the legislature agreed to allow SUNY to authorize up to 50 more charters in New York City, and Belluck made it clear that he was dismayed that the increase came without any new funding.

“I will say this now: I am not scheduling a vote on a single charter, a new charter, until there are additional resources allocated to the Charter School Institute,” Belluck said. “I am saying it to the charter community and the legislature and everybody else. I am a very stubborn person. I will not change my mind about this,” he added.

Attempts to reach Belluck were not immediately successful.

Wednesday’s filings show that Cuomo has continued to bring in money from individuals backing education groups he has gone to bat for during the last two legislative sessions, especially charter schools, as he has in recent years.

Last year, Cuomo required New York City to provide free space or funding for private space for new and expanding charter schools. This year, education was the central component of his legislative agenda, and he pushed changes to laws that will result in more changes to evaluations for teachers and more charter schools allowed to open in New York City.

Donors with education ties include:

  • Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, a founder of Democrats for Education Reform, former board member of the Public Prep charter school network: $60,800
  • Larry Robbins, chairman of the board for KIPP New York, Relay Graduate School of Education: $60,800
  • Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager, and board member of Success Academy and StudentsFirstNY: $25,000
  • David Boies, StudentsFirstNY board member and lawyer involved in New York’s teacher-tenure lawsuit led by Campbell Brown and brought by parents: $15,000
  • Democrats for Education Reform: $10,000
  • Jill Braufman, a board member of Success Academy and board chair of the Center for Arts Education: $5,000
  • Roger Hertog, Manhattan Institute Chairman and Success Academy donor: $5,000
  • Daniel Nir, a Success Academy board member: $5,000
  • Martin Scheinman, an arbitrator who mediated negotiations between the city and the teachers union over its $5.5 billion contract: $7,500

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.