Blue Dogs in NY State Legislature.

Diane Ravitch points to the New York State legislature in her blog this week. NY is a Blue State having gone Dem in presidential elections; however, the state legislature is divided with the Dems controlling the Assembly and Repubs the Senate.

What makes the New York state legislature interesting is the emergence of a Blue Dog Democrat segment of the State Assembly, which sides with the Senate Republicans on various issues. Blue Dogs (which I kind of like as a descriptor for them) conjures up thoughts of when the US Senate version were negotiating special deals before the ACA was finally passed. Not that there is a relationship between the federal and NY state variety of Blue Dogs, it still fits and the identity of Democrat is a misnomer.

The Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC) was formed by the Independence Party and is chaired by IDC chair Senator Jeff Klein. The SICC is a formal party campaign committee. The SICC as a party campaign committee allows donors to circumvent the stricter limits on direct donations to candidates as donations limits to party committees are much higher and the same as the limits on how much party committees can give to candidates.

Calling themselves the IDC or the Independent Democratic Caucus, they move to the influence of special interest groups. Now you would think the usage of the word “Independent” in their group name would imply they would not be swayed by any particular interest group, heh? Being the independent swing group in the NY State legislature, the IDC has power to dispense for the right donation regardless of its majority constituency. They could go with Republicans or Democrats based upon interest group influence or ideology. One would hope they would be swayed by the needs and the interests of an entire school population rather than a minority.

Charter School DonationsWhile it is not mystery to find it out, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) shed some light upon the IDC’s source of funding. In its report Pay to Play,” the Alliance reveals how the IDC played off Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate with funding schools, the funding it receives from individuals, foundations, and Pacs, and who the donations went to over a six year period.

From 2011 to 2016, the IDC received $676,850 from charter school political interest groups and individuals which was spread amongst multiple recipients. The detail of who donated and to whom it went to can be found in the first table.

NYS Student EnrollmentNew York State Charter school students make up 5% of the total student population. 2.6 million students across the state attend Public schools and approximately 100,000 students attend privately run charter schools.

In 2006 the COA ruled that state government was consistently underfunding schools in a lawsuit filed in 1993 (Campaign for Fiscal Equity). The court ordered the state to provide a remedy. The state legislature and Governor Spitzer “replaced the 30 funding formulas with a needs-based, wealth equalizing formula known as the Foundation Aid, and committed to providing a $5.5 billion increase in operating aid to schools across the state over the course of four years. Only two years of the phase-in were completed and most of the funding was cut during 2010 and 2011. The state currently owes approximately$3.6 billion of that money

For the 2017/18 budget year, the Speaker of the State Assembly called for full funding of the School Foundation Aid. Following the Speaker’s lead, the State Assembly passed a $1.4 billion increase this year and phased-in complete funding over 4 years. The Independent Democratic Caucasus (IDC) in a press release publicly committed to support the bill in a press release.

“The IDC proposes making a $1.47 billion investment directly to the Foundation Aid formula, for the first year of a three-year commitment to achieve complete funding.”

Thinking they had support and going forward, Senate Democrats proposed an amendment to phase in the Foundation Aid in three years repeating what the IDC agreed to in their proposal. In a complete turnabout from what was committed to, the IDC joined with Senate Republicans to defeat the measure.

Working with their Republican counterparts, the IDC rewarded charter schools and their supporters by increasing a larger funding package than what was given to public schools. Charter schools received $500/student and public schools received $263 /student. The passage of their act occurred at the same time as the Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos proposals of increased federal funding for privately-run charter schools at the expense of public schools.

Not stopping at skewing the state budget giving charter schools larger operational funding increases per pupil at the expense of public schools; the IDC and their Republican counterparts cut spending for poverty stricken students, disabled students, aid for learning English, and capped funding for larger school districts in NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers. School. School districts which would have a larger population of minority students.

Betsy DeVos: “’Anyone who knows me knows that they (the Senate Committee) couldn’t be further from the truth,’ she said. ‘Discrimination in any form is wrong. And I’ve said before and I’ll say again: the department is committed to ensuring that every child has a safe and nurturing environment, and we are and will be continuing to pursue allegations of discrimination in any form as well. So that has been a really hurtful thing for me personally, because it’s not who I am.’”

Betsy inspires states by giving them a choice.

Credits and References:

Exposed: Wall Street Money Pays Democratic Clique to Help GOP Control State Senate Diane Ravitch’s blog; Diane Ravitch, June 7, 2017

Pay To Play, Charter Schools and the IDC The Alliance for Quality Education, Marina Marcou-O’Malley, June 6, 2017

Credit to “The Alliance for Quality Education” Charts

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