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Astorino says ‘no thanks’ to Common Core tests for his children; Republicans flock to anti-Safe rally

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, made a public show of pulling his children from Common Core testing, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported.

“Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of New York children from third to fifth grade will arrive at school and be asked to serve as guinea pigs in one of the most untested education experiments in history,” the Enterprise reported Mr. Astorino said. “After speaking at length with my wife Sheila, who’s a special education teacher, my children will join with thousands of other school kids statewide in refusing to take the Cuomo Common Core test.”

Common Core tests begin today across New York state. The tests, designed to test for educational benchmarks across several grades, have been criticized nationwide, as has the Common Core curriculum. The tests taken this year will not appear on student records.

Nevertheless, the issue has become a political football to the extent that the budget passed last night delays for two years the use of Common Core tests to decide whether students in grades three through eight should be promoted to the next grade. It also prohibits Common Core testing before third grade and includes increased funds for teacher development to help educators adjust to the new standards.

The Enterprise reported that Mr. Astorino criticized the development of the program, accusing the administration of denying teachers a voice in the process.

“Surely it was tested on a wide scale somewhere, you ask - right?” Mr. Astorino said in the Enterprise story. “Nope. This is the test. Our kids are the test, yours and mine.

Expect Common Core to remain a contentious issue through the coming campaign, and expect it to spill over into state Legislature races as well.

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Among many politicians attending today’s rally to repeal the SAFE Act will be 21st Congressional District candidates Matthew A. Doheny, a Watertown resident; Elise M. Stefanik, Willsboro; and Joseph M. Gilbert, DeKalb Junction. All three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination.

It’s always a point of confusion when a candidate for national office becomes actively engaged in a state issue. Any number of state issues, of course, have spillover in Washington. Medicaid/Medicare, education, transportation, commerce — all have resonance in both the corridors of Washington, D.C. and in statehouses across the nation.

Gun control, however, has largely been a state issue. Federal attempts at gun control have repeatedly been rejected or eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ms. Stefanik, responding to an email question about her attendance at the event, responded: “I’m absolutely here today joining pro-2nd Amendment, anti-SAFE Act activists from across the 21st Congressional District whom I’ve known, worked with, and attended rallies with the past year.”

She’s not just a good ol’ girl supporting her fellow gun owners, however.

“The 2nd Amendment is a Constitutional issue for every American. Our next Member of Congress will take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and the rights it protects,” she said in an email from Albany. “I will be a staunch advocate for our 2nd Amendment rights.”

Mr. Gilbert, reached by phone in Albany, said that there “was a lot to take in” at the rally and that opponents of the SAFE Act were there to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“But it’s disconcerting that we have to do this to protect our Second Amendment rights,” Mr. Gilbert said.

Asked whether he was attending the really as a candidate or a private citizen, Mr. Gilbert said, “mostly as a private citizen. Of course, I’m doing some campaigning too. But mostly as a private citizen.”

Mr. Doheny did not respond to a request for a comment but his campaign did put out a statement after the event was concluded.

“Passed in the dead of night, the SAFE Act makes criminals out of law abiding gun owners and is yet another infringement by an out of control government on our constitutional rights,” the news release qouted Mr. Doheny.“As Congressman, I will always work to protect the rights of hunters and law abiding gun owners.”

The release said Mr. Doheny signeda pledge to support the Second Amendment and demand the repeal of the NY-SAFE Act.

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State Sen. Patricia A Ritchie announced today that a bipartisan coalition of 85 state lawmakers are joining forces to back Fort Drum “in the face of looming federal defense budget cuts.”

The group sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, asking him to bring together state leaders from Albany to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the post, which Mrs. Ritchie’s release called “crucial to the nation’s defense” and an unprecedented economic engine for the entire state.

The group includes 58 Republicans and 27 Democrats. Copies of the letter were sent to members of the state’s Congressional delegation.

Mrs. Ritchie’s release said she and 117th District Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, organized the support after Brigadier General Michael Howard, in an appearance before the Legislature last month, issued a call to action.

“A few years ago, many state leaders had never heard of Fort Drum, but thanks in part to the Senate’s ‘Fort Drum Day’ and the efforts of local community leaders, we have now been able to rally support from across New York State for this critical economic engine of the North Country,” Senator Ritchie said in the release.

Recent announcements by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about reducing the size of the nation’s armed forces, in conjunction with an already announced decommissioning of the post’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, have helped jump-start renewed support for the post from a broad range of groups.

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