- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York 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 tougher 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 Regent 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.

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 or guidance 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.

“We have to decide whether or not we want to have people continue in the capacity that they served up until now,” said Senate education committee chair John Flanagan. “This is one of the few lightening rod opportunities that we have to exercise our discretion and our judgment on behalf of our residents.”

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 even some Democrats were unhappy.

Democratic Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, who represents the judicial district Finn now represents, voted against all of the candidates, saying that only electing one new member is a “missed opportunity to see more change” on the board.

“I think we made progress on the process, but I’m still not satisfied that we have the best candidates,” Tkaczyk said following the vote

Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins voted against the incumbents. She said they failed to recognize that the Common Core implementation needed to be reevaluated.

The state received nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top grants for implementing the curriculum rollout in 2010. Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

In a radio interview before the vote, Cuomo defended the curriculum standard but said the Board of Regents and the way they’re selected should be scrutinized.

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