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What is Hochul and Zeldin’s position on education?

At first glance, New Yorkers might assume that the state’s gubernatorial candidates — Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and Republican Lee Zeldin — would have starkly opposite approaches to education if elected.

And while that’s likely true in many ways, there are still many open questions about how the two would approach politics for schools.

Hochul hasn’t focused much on education during the election campaign, and while his tenure so far provides some clues, his campaign website has no details about its goals for the state’s K-12 schools beyond wanting to invest more money in them.

“As a leader, she has little incentive to take pointed or even very precise and specific positions, especially on policies that are in the least bit controversial, especially policies that are controversial in the suburbs,” said said Jeffrey Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University. Teachers College.

In contrast, Zeldin “throws everything against the wall that Republicans try in many places,” Henig said.

The deputy has proposed several priorities, such as the ban on teaching “dividing concepts” in race-related schools – a topic of discussion that conservatives across the country embraced — but he didn’t provide further details on many of his ideas. Some of his proposals are explicit, like wanting to lift the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in New York.

The Zeldin campaign did not respond to questions asking to elaborate on its positions or provide more details.

As the gubernatorial race nears this fall, here’s what we know about where the two fall on education issues:


Zeldin said he would ban “the divisive curriculum that pits children against each other based on race and other factors” – language similar to what conservative lawmakers in other states pushed for.

His platform does not explicitly talk about critical race theory, or CRT, which is an academic framework for studying systemic racism, but which has been used by Republicans as an umbrella term for diversity and inclusion efforts. . City and state officials said critical race theory was not taught in the city’s public schools. At the state and city levels, officials have encouraged schools to provide culturally appropriate lessons.

But Zeldin wrote in an opinion piece last year that the CRT was politicizing education. In it, he lambasted a lengthy framework released by the state’s Department of Education that encourages — but doesn’t require — districts to teach culturally appropriate lessons, or lessons that relate to and affirm people. backgrounds of various students. The department also wants districts to consider acknowledging the role of racism in American history and create lessons that empower students to be “agents of change.”

Zeldin’s platform also calls for restricting “age-inappropriate” sex education, though it doesn’t detail what that means, requiring financial literacy classes in public schools and education classes. who “teach students how and why they come to live in the greatest nation”. in the history of the world. »

Still, if Zeldin were elected, he’s unlikely to succeed in banning schools from teaching about race, since the state legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic and doesn’t support such policies. For example, a bill to ban critical race theory in schools failed to get out of the committee last year.

“You can see outside money and domestic organizations trying to come in and really add momentum to these messages about parental rights and critical race theory and gender identity issues,” Henig said. “I don’t want to discount the importance of how people talk about things, but the impact on actual politics would be delayed, at best.”

So far, Hochul hasn’t taken a firm stance on the kinds of curricula or learning standards it supports in schools. Asked about a New York Times investigation that found a lack of basic tuition in basic subjects, such as English, at Hasidic yeshivas, Hochul said responsibility for these private religious schools. belonged to the state education department, not his office. (Zeldin supported yeshivas, which are located in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, and courted votes from Orthodox and Hasidic communities, reported the New York Times.)

Asked about Hochul’s stance on the program, her campaign pointed out an ABC 7 story of May, where she said she supported a bill that would have required New York schools to teach Asian American history. (The law project did not leave the committee.) They also pointed to a bill she signed that requires the state education department to ensure school districts meet requirements for teaching children about the Holocaust – an idea that Zeldin also supports.

Traditional Public Schools vs. Charter Schools

Zeldin voiced substantial support for school choice and charter schools. In fact, he first announced his education program last spring outside a Success Academy school in Queens.

Zeldin supports lifting the cap on the number of charter schools that can open in New York City, which was reached in the city in 2019. He also wants to establish “school choice tax credits” and create education savings accounts, but does not provide further details. With an education savings account, parents can pull their children out of public schools and receive taxpayer money in a restricted-use account to pay for private school or other educational options like therapy.

So far, the state legislature has not supported lifting the charter cap.

Zeldin’s online platform says it wants more options for “elementary school technical level learning, experience, and certification,” though it’s unclear whether it refers to career preparation programs or something else.

At the city level, Zeldin agreed with Mayor Eric Adams and Hochul on extending the mayor’s control over schools. And, like Adams, Zeldin also supports keeping the controversial entrance exam for the city’s specialized high schools, as well as for “advanced and specialized” college students. He won support of some parents that promote screened admissions to the city’s public middle and high schools and “gifted and talented” programs.

Hochul has not said publicly if she supports lifting the charter cap. She has repeatedly touted overseeing a budget that sent more state money to school districts following an agreement to fully fund Foundation Aid, the state funding formula that sends more money to districts with higher needs.

She has been interested in strengthening mental health resources for students, ensuring more children go to college, particularly by expanding tuition assistance for part-time students in New York. , and has attempted to address the teacher shortage by expanding alternative teacher certification programs and temporarily removing an income cap for retired teachers wishing to return to the profession.

She also signed a popular bill that requires lower class sizes in New York, which was celebrated by many families, the teachers’ union and advocates. Some conservative parent groups pushed back, arguing the mandate would take money away from other student services.

School budgets and enrollment

Neither Hochul nor Zeldin has addressed one of the most critical issues facing public schools: declining enrollment.

Enrollment in traditional public schools has fallen by more than 2% nationwide since the start of the pandemic, and by about 9.5% in public schools in New York. Changes in enrollment have big implications for school budgets that are closely tied to the number of students in classrooms. This issue is already playing out in New York, where three-quarters of schools have seen cuts to funding that pays for staff and programs for students.

Zeldin’s educational platform does not solve the problem. Although Hochul touted her commitment to increasing funding for public schools, she did not explain what to do about enrollment changes in the state.

“What you see from Hochul’s side is, ‘Yes, we support education, we’re willing to spend more on it,’ but somehow resist what progressive forces might want to see in the campaign. , in terms of challenging core funding formulas in ways that might not work well in affluent or more affluent communities who would see this as a redirection of state funds away from them and into communities at low income,” Henig said.

COVID Policies

Most of the COVID mitigations for schools have ended, so the election of either candidate is unlikely to drastically change that.

Zeldin and Hochul have both supported removing COVID mitigations, such as masking, with Hochul recently call remote learning a “mistake”. But Zeldin pushed harder to remove all sorts of warrants.

While Hochul ended mask mandates, she also oversaw the sending of home COVID tests to schools and touted keeping schools open during a surge in infections last winter, although the in-person teaching has always been severely disrupted. (She is come under fire in recent weeks for an agreement it made when choosing a vendor for these tests.)

Zeldin opposed COVID vaccine and mask mandates. If elected, he could pressure Adams to drop a vaccination mandate for New York school staff. At one point, Hochul expressed support for forcing children to get COVID shots. The state legislature is expected to pass a bill that added COVID vaccines to the list of vaccines already required for school children, according to the New York Times.

Reema Amine is a journalist covering New York City schools with a focus on state politics and English language learners. Contact Reema at [email protected]

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