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NNY lawmakers split on Regents election

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ALBANY — State lawmakers on Tuesday voted in one new member of the Board of Regents and retained three more, making only a minor change to the educational board that has been blamed by parents and teachers for a poor rollout of the tough Common Core standards.

Josephine Victoria Finn, a Monticello village justice and former community college associate professor, was elected in an unusual joint session of the Legislature to replace former Board of Regents member James Jackson, who withdrew his re-election bid Monday night.

Jackson represented the Albany area and parts of the Hudson Valley on the 17-member board. At-large members Wade Norwood and James Cottrell and Christine Cea, who represents Staten Island, were re-elected.

Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, did not vote for the three incumbents.

“The flawed roll-out of Common Core has created anxiety for students, parents and teachers from every corner of New York, and a resulting outpouring of protest from all across Central and Northern New York,” Sen. Ritchie said in a statement. “Today, it’s the Board of Regents that got the failing grade.”

However, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, voted for the reappointment. She said members of the Senate who have opposed the process of electing members to the board are detracting attention from solving problems related to the Common Core curriculum.

“There were many people who decided they aren’t going to vote for any of the candidates put before them, but I think people in New York deserve legislators who are willing to work versus pretending they don’t have to respond to what’s going on,” Mrs. Russell said. “The Senate, as a whole, has not engaged in this discussion.”

The Board of Regents oversees educational policy and has been at the center of the debate over Common Core, a curriculum standard in English and math designed to improve college and career readiness. Teachers argue they weren’t given sufficient material, guidance or time on the new standards, resulting in dismal passing rates for Common Core-aligned tests. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also knocked the way the curriculum was rolled out.

Incumbents and challengers needed a majority vote of 107 from both the Assembly and the Senate to win their seat. The Assembly Democrats typically control the vote, but had only 99 votes because of vacant seats and relied on fellow Democrats in the Senate to muster majorities.

Typically, Senate Republicans boycott the Democrat-controlled vote. This time, Republicans attended the vote and nominated challengers to every seat available.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said he was not voting for anyone as a protest to the selection process, and Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins voted against the incumbents.

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