Cuomo calls new NYSUT president

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo today called the new president of the state’s teachers union after she was elected to the post over the weekend.

MageeKaren Magee, the Harrison Association of Teachers president, said the Democratic governor called her this morning to congratulate her on the new post.

“He called to congratulate me. I’m looking forward to working with the governor,” Magee told Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “The governor is the head of this state and he’s important to us, but we’re important to him.”

Magee’s election was announced Sunday, and the Buffalo News reported late yesterday that Magee hadn’t been contacted by Cuomo and that the union isn’t expected to endorse him.

Magee said she appreciated the call and didn’t express concerns from members to him about his policies: “I wanted to keep the door open. It was the right phone call at this point in time.”

The union, which represents 600,000 teachers and school employees, didn’t endorse Cuomo in 2010, and it’s become increasingly frustrated with him and the policies in Albany — all of which led the union to oust long-time president Richard Iannuzzi.

Magee reiterated that it’s unlikely the union would back Cuomo, who will be seeking a second term in November. The union will make its endorsements in August.

“There’s no sentiment at this point in time on the part of the members to endorse the governor,” Magee said. “Members are frustrated. Members feel their hands are tied as a result of the tax cap and the funding. It impacts class size. It impacts districts’ ability to take risks and try new and innovative program due to the lack of funding.”

Cuomo and the Legislature installed a property-tax cap in 2011 and that year cut state aid to schools. But aid has grown steadily since, up 5.3 percent this year.

Magee said she plans a statewide tour during her first 100 days in office. She hopes that state will impose a moratorium on using test scores from standardized exams to evaluate teachers; the state budget last week put a two-year moratorium in place on using the scores to evaluate student performance.

“The significant changes that you are going to see is that the union would be more inclusive of the rank and file, more of a grassroots movement to really bring in the voices of the people who are in the trenches and delivering all the services of our union every day,” she said.

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