The difficult choices New Yorkers face at the polls

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Randi Weingarten, AFT President

As I head back home to vote on Nov. 4, I'll be casting my vote for the candidates endorsed by NYSUT, my statewide union, starting with Eric Schneiderman for attorney general, Thomas DiNapoli for comptroller, Tim Bishop for the U.S. House of Representatives, and a strong pro-public education, pro-worker majority in the state Senate and Assembly. And I'll be voting on the Working Families Party line. If I lived in another state, I'd be starting with the governor—but not in New York.

It's heartbreaking to see what's happening in New York, especially after campaigning across the country for gubernatorial candidates who unequivocally support public education, respect teachers and will fight for the investment our schools need.

But in New York, the decision is painful. I am deeply disappointed and appalled by Gov. Cuomo's recent statement that public education is a "monopoly" that needs to be busted up. (Frankly, it's only hedge fund millionaires, right-wing privatizers and tea partiers who would use that terminology.) Public education is a public good and an anchor of democracy that is enshrined in our state constitution. Public education needs to be nurtured and reclaimed.

At the same time, the other major candidate, Rob Astorino, would be no day at the beach for New York's students, educators and working families. His letter was a needed salve to teachers, but his embrace of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's politics of destruction, public education funding cuts and attacks on workers' voices is not a model for New York.

Whichever candidate is elected governor on Nov. 4 needs to know that I (and so many others) will hold his feet to the fire to strengthen public education. Our public schools and our students are a sacred responsibility, and our educators are national treasures. It's well past time to fund our schools, care for our children, support our teachers, and stand up for workers and working families everywhere in our state.