NYSUT regional president Mike Deely is being criticized by education activists for his handling of the teachers unions’ political spending in the 60th State Senate district. Two years ago, Deely spent heavily on an aggressively negative campaign against incumbent Senator Mark Grisanti that many observers called “childish” and “sophomoric,” even including a radio jingle.
But teachers are concerned with much more than their chief lobbyist’s loose spending and willingness to produce “cartoonish propaganda to smear a Senator.” They are most concerned with his judgement.
In many ways Deely recruited one term Senator Marc Panepinto. He was an early backer, provided staff support, and spent heavily in the contest. Panepinto has long been close to organized labor, as an aspiring politician with long held ambitions. Without NYSUT’s involvement, Panepinto wouldn’t have been elected.
Many teachers say that Panepinto’s previous election fraud convictions should have disqualified him from receiving the support of the union, especially in a year when Senator Al Coppola, a longtime friend and ally of the Buffalo teachers was running.
“If Deely had backed Coppola like he should have two years ago, we would have elected a statesman of a politician and have had the seat locked down for the Democrats until the next redistricting,” says one prominent Tonawanda Democrat who asked not to be named. “Instead, we endorse the guy who was convicted of election fraud and who everyone knew could never get reelected — and like that, he pissed away $1.4 million in union dues.”
Known for his stubbornness, Deely could do it again. He has yet to publicly endorse Coppola at this late date in the election cycle, and he hasn’t produced any direct mail literature in support of Coppola’s candidacy. Amber Small, a supporter of charter schools, is challenging Coppola for the Democrat nomination.