- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

HAWTHORNE, N.Y. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Tuesday that members of New York’s Board of Regents, which supervises the state’s schools, should be chosen by the people rather than the Legislature.

Astorino proposed amending the state constitution to let residents or school boards elect a regent in each of 13 districts around the state.

Regents are now chosen by the state Legislature - one for each district and four at large - and Astorino said that gives too much control to Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“We have one man, Sheldon Silver, determining who sits on the 17-member Board of Regents,” Astorino said. He said that makes the regents “unaccountable because they’re unelected.”

Noting that Silver is unlikely to give up such control, Astorino said the change could be forced during a constitutional convention as soon as 2017.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, made several education proposals during a news conference at Hawthorne Elementary School. About 40 people, including several school-age children, stood with him.

He repeated his contention that Common Core standards should be dumped, saying they’re “an experiment where we may not get the answers for 10 or 15 years to see if it ever worked.” Astorino, whose ballot lines include the Stop Common Core Party, said Cuomo “took the lead in implementing Common Core.” The governor was a critic of the Common Core rollout but has defended the idea of the standards in general.

Astorino called for New York high schools to grant three varieties of diplomas:

- An academic diploma for students who concentrate on the humanities.

- A “STEM” diploma for science, technology, engineering and math. He said New York should not have to import foreigners to take technological jobs.

- A technical education diploma for vocational studies. Vocational skills “need to be put back into schools” so students who don’t want to go to college are ready to enter the workforce, Astorino said.

Astorino called for teaching foreign languages in elementary schools, even in kindergarten.

He also called for “education investment tax credits,” which he said could save some parochial schools and which he said Cuomo had promised to parents and religious organizations.

“He broke his promise many times,” Astorino said. “Looked them right in the eye and lied.”

The Cuomo campaign didn’t immediately comment on Astorino’s contentions and instead referred a reporter to a statement from Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY. The statement said Astorino was “re-peddling the right wing’s factually deficient smear campaign on higher standards for children.” Sedlis said the group is “supportive of Gov. Cuomo’s candidacy.”

Astorino also called for fighting chronic absenteeism, which he said made students more likely to take drugs or join gangs.

He said his suggestions could be paid for by changing funding priorities.

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