Board Of Regents Held Vote Today
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By Kyle Hughes
ALBANY, N.Y. (March 11) – Legislators held rare contested elections Tuesday for members of the Board of Regents, reflecting the public outcry over the Education Department rollout of the Common Core school standards program.
But in the end, neither a public outcry nor contested votes mattered and the status quo prevailed thanks to a majority vote by Democrats. The only surprise was the last minute decision of one incumbent to not seek reappointment.
Voting for more than two hours along party lines in a joint Senate-Assembly session, legislators re-elected “at-large” members Wade Norwood of Rochester and James Cottrell of Brooklyn, and Staten Island’s Christine Cea. In a concession to Common Core critics, Democrats pulled the nomination of James Jackson of Albany, replacing him with Josephine Victoria Finn, a Monticello lawyer and inspirational and weight-loss speaker.
The vote, whose outcome as always was decided by Democratic votes since they comprise an overall majority of the Legislature, was notable for the participation of Senate Republicans who usually skip the session. The Senate GOP and several Assembly Republicans cast blanket no votes for candidates, citing Common Core and the Democratic control of the process.
“Until there are fundamental changes, this is one of the few lightning rod opportunities to exercise our judgment,” Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) said.
“A majority of members in the New York State Assembly have voted to accept the status quo and keep those responsible for this disastrous rollout in power,” Senator Joseph Griffo (R-Oneida County) said after the vote. “This decision underscores why it’s important to permanently change the way Regents are selected. I have advocated for voters to pick Regents during school budget referendums. I want those most affected by these policy changes to have a say in who is deciding how our children should learn.”
It’s not clear when the last contested Regents votes occurred, but there was speculation that has not happened since the 1970s, when a Buffalo community leader named Pasquale Rubino was nominated as an alternative and lost.
The Regents set educational policy in the state through the state Education Department and oversee museums, professional licensing and a plethora of other government actions. Regent candidates must apply, be screened, then nominated and voted on in the joint session.
The losing candidates were:
- Carol Mikoda, a retired teacher from Windsor endorsed by NYS Allies for Public Education, an anti-Common Core group, who ran against Cottrell and lost 120-38
- Walter Polka, a former school superintendent in Western New York who is now a professor at Niagara University who was Norwood’s opponent, who lost 118-43.
- Maxine Fantroy-Ford, a former Albany High School principal, and Helen Regina Rose, a former teacher from Niverville endorsed by NYS Allies for Public Education, an anti-Common Core group. They both lost to Finn in the District III Region (Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster Counties), 121 for Finn, 20 Ford, and 10 for Rose.
- Christine Cea in Staten Island’s District XIII Region, 116-30.
The vote totals are unofficial until Wednesday and the Assembly did not immediately provide a roll call. The anti-Common Core group Allies for Public Education promised to post its own roll call online at this address: