© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Teachout attempting to connect the dots in pro-charter school campaign donations

Karen DeWitt


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, has joined up with the state’s Working Families Party to criticize what she says is a Wall Street hedge fund takeover of  the state’s educational policies.

Teachout, who was spurned by the Working Families Party when it endorsed Cuomo for re-election, has now joined with elements of the party to push back on proposals to lift the state’s cap on charter schools.

In a report, Teachout outlines the rapid growth  this fall of a Super PAC funded by Wall Street businessmen, that donated more than $10 million to the governor’s campaign and state Senate races, and is advocating for more privately run charter schools. 

"I don't want to see New York's democracy taken over by 12 men, be they good hearted or ill hearted, in a secret, hasty way," Teachout said. "One of the things that concerns me is that we see Andrew Cuomo make this more and more of a priority over they years, and it seems to follow the money."

Zephyr Teachout with groups opposing any expansion of charter schools
Credit Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Edit | Remove

Teachout says a possible special legislative session to trade pay raises for legislators in exchange for more charter schools would be the wrong way to make school policy.

“It is no way to make major public policy to have a special session with a charter cap lifted after there’s been zero discussion of it during the campaigns,” Teachout said.

Cuomo was the lead speaker at a pro-charter school rally earlier this year, and has said he wants to break the public school monopoly, but so far has not explicitly proposed that the number of charter schools be expanded.

The executive director of a pro-charter schools group, Students First New York, in response blamed the teachers union for problems with the state’s schools, and defended the hedge fund manager’s motives.

“After spending more than $8 million on this year's elections alone, it is the height of audacity for the special interests that created our broken education system to attack civic-minded individuals who are standing up for students,” said Students First’s Jenny Sedlis. 

New York State United Teachers also spent millions to influence the state's 2014 elections, but Teachout says their contributions are different because they represent a group of tens of thousands of members, and their aims are more transparent.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.