Gov. Cuomo continues to bring in money from donors with education ties

On the same day a top New York charter school regulator spoke out about needing a funding increase from the state, he sent money to the person with perhaps the most say in the matter.

Joseph Belluck, a high-profile lawyer and SUNY trustee who chairs the committee governing the SUNY Charter School Institute, gave $10,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign, filings released Wednesday show. The contribution is part of $2.4 million in donations Cuomo’s campaign reported receiving over the last six months — a slice of which again came from a cadre of money managers, executives, philanthropists, and lawyers who support charter schools, tougher accountability rules, or weaker job protections for teachers.

Like other donors with ties to education policy, Belluck has given money to Cuomo and other elected officials in the past. And it’s not unusual for powerful policymakers to get involved in politics: Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, for one, was a top fundraiser during New York City’s 2013 mayoral campaign and has contributed more than $65,000 to city campaigns since 1995.

But the timing of Belluck’s most recent donation is notable. Filings show that the transaction happened on June 30, the same day that Belluck showed an uncharacteristic activist streak at the SUNY Charter School Institute’s board meeting. It was the first board meeting since Gov. Cuomo and the legislature agreed to allow SUNY to authorize up to 50 more charters in New York City, and Belluck made it clear that he was dismayed that the increase came without any new funding.

“I will say this now: I am not scheduling a vote on a single charter, a new charter, until there are additional resources allocated to the Charter School Institute,” Belluck said. “I am saying it to the charter community and the legislature and everybody else. I am a very stubborn person. I will not change my mind about this,” he added.

Attempts to reach Belluck were not immediately successful.

Wednesday’s filings show that Cuomo has continued to bring in money from individuals backing education groups he has gone to bat for during the last two legislative sessions, especially charter schools, as he has in recent years.

Last year, Cuomo required New York City to provide free space or funding for private space for new and expanding charter schools. This year, education was the central component of his legislative agenda, and he pushed changes to laws that will result in more changes to evaluations for teachers and more charter schools allowed to open in New York City.

Donors with education ties include:

  • Ravenel Boykin Curry IV, a founder of Democrats for Education Reform, former board member of the Public Prep charter school network: $60,800
  • Larry Robbins, chairman of the board for KIPP New York, Relay Graduate School of Education: $60,800
  • Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager, and board member of Success Academy and StudentsFirstNY: $25,000
  • David Boies, StudentsFirstNY board member and lawyer involved in New York’s teacher-tenure lawsuit led by Campbell Brown and brought by parents: $15,000
  • Democrats for Education Reform: $10,000
  • Jill Braufman, a board member of Success Academy and board chair of the Center for Arts Education: $5,000
  • Roger Hertog, Manhattan Institute Chairman and Success Academy donor: $5,000
  • Daniel Nir, a Success Academy board member: $5,000
  • Martin Scheinman, an arbitrator who mediated negotiations between the city and the teachers union over its $5.5 billion contract: $7,500