Diane Ravitch a candidate for New York governor? (update)


Diane Ravitch on The Daily Show

(Update: Ravitch confirms on her blog that she won’t be a candidate, which is what the original post said.)

Diane Ravitch a candidate for New York governor?

New York newspapers, including The New York Times, are reporting that the Working Families Party, whose New Jersey affiliate just helped get Ras Baraka elected mayor of Newark on the issue of school reform, is considering making her its candidate in this November’s election if it decides not to endorse incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A party source confirmed that she is one of several possible gubernatorial candidates and that the winner will be decided when party leaders meet this Saturday. The Daily News reported that Ravitch was interested.

Really? Ravitch, 75, a New York University research professor and the unofficial leader of the growing grassroots movement opposing corporate school reform, was hospitalized late last year with blood clots and walking pneumonia, and she recently had knee surgery. Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education and author, has for years maintained a travel schedule as hectic as any political candidate, but people who know her say she’s not now in physical condition to be a candidate.

While her supporters can dream about a Ravitch candidacy and seeing her debate Cuomo on school reform,  her suggested potential candidacy is political theater. She announced herself late Thursday on her blog that she is not a candidate nor will be one. That said, her cause, fighting corporate school reform and  the privatization of public education, is an important issue in New York now as the Common Core State Standards are being implemented and the initiative is facing growing grassroots opposition. It could well be an important issue in the November election.

The Working Families Party was formed by a grassroots coalition of community organizations, neighborhood activists, and labor unions, to hold politicians accountable on issues that are important to middle- and working-class families, such as jobs, schools, healthcare, etc. There are chapters in a handful of states but no national organization. The New York Times describes the party as “influential” in state politics and its endorsement could affect November’s election. An April poll released by Siena College showed that any liberal backed by the party would halve the lead that Cuomo had over his Republican opponent. Who knows where that anti-Cuomo sentiment goes as the campaign continues.

Many party activists are angry with Cuomo over a number of issues, including his support for charter schools and his public steamrolling of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year. That may be why Cuomo met this week with party leaders Bill Lipton and Dan Cantor, along with members of unions that are in the party coalition, to talk about an endorsement, with de Blasio serving as mediator, the New York newspapers reported. The meeting was held ahead of Saturday’s meeting of the party’s state committee, which will select the candidate the party will back.

The party could wind up endorsing Cuomo but  it seems at this point more likely that it will put forth another candidate, which could complicate things for Cuomo. In fact, that’s what some educators in New York are calling for. For example, award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris wrote on her blog, Round the Inkwell, that many Democrats “feel betrayed and abandoned by the education policies of Governor Cuomo” and she called for the Working Families Party to endorse another candidate over Cuomo.

The argument that the alternative is worse, is the argument used to keep us in our place. It is the argument that has allowed big money interests to hold sway in a party that was once committed to the progressive ideals of public education. It is the argument used to mollify parents who are outraged when their neighborhood schools are closed and their children are continually tested. It is the argument used to dismiss those who have pleaded for equitable funding for our schools.

 One thing is pretty clear: If the party does endorse someone other than Cuomo, it won’t be Diane Ravitch because her health precludes it.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · May 29