Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent, Albany

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now.  She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

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Teachers say they hope Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly appointed education commission will fix problems with the controversial Common Core learning standards. But they say a lot has to change, including the unpopular tests associated with the standards.  

The task force will include educators, teachers, parents, officials from the New York State Education Department and the teacher’s unions,” Cuomo said in a pre-recorded web video.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Fixing the state’s troubled ethics commission will be the subject of hearings in Albany on October 7 and in New York City October 17. Reform groups say they are ready with suggestions.

The panel, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May, is tasked with looking at ways to improve the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, which has been widely criticized as secretive and ineffective. JCOPE was launched by Cuomo and the state legislature during the governor’s first months in office back in 2011.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

 

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign for a phased in $15 an hour minimum wage is resonating among his base group of supporters. The Siena poll also finds the governor’s job approval rating is still at near record low levels. 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is getting some help from union financed advertising, but it still has its opponents.  

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York Republicans re-elected Ed Cox to a fourth term as their party’s chairman, while GOP members talked of strategies toward winning more seats in statewide races.   

Ed Cox, who is the son in law of former President Richard Nixon,  was elected unanimously by party leaders, after a threatened challenge by Onondaga County Republican Chairman Tom Dadey failed to materialize.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in an address before the state’s business leaders,  promoted his economic development plans, including the Buffalo Billion initiative, and fended off questions on reports that some of the projects are under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The leader of the Business Council  of New York State says her group will fight Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, but concedes that the legislation may become law soon.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Charter school advocate Campbell Brown, speaking at the state’s annual business council meeting, took both state politicians and teacher unions to task for what she says is a failing public school system.  

The teachers union and its allies will protest outside the annual Business Council of New York State's meeting in Lake George on Wednesday.  The union is upset over a speech to be given by former CNN anchor and now charter school advocate Campbell Brown.

Campbell Brown is the featured speaker at the yearly event, at the posh Sagamore Resort on Lake George. It often features top politicians, but seldom attracts demonstrations.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The state’s highest ranking female elected official, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, is defending the Cuomo’s administration in the wake of a report that shows women employed by the executive chamber make just 73 percent of what men there earn.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called himself a feminist and complained about sexism in society, yet a report by Politico New York finds that women are underrepresented in the upper layers of his administration, and overall, make less money than the men.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be  pushing for a bill to raise the minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour in the new legislative session, but some say it could backfire and result in fewer jobs.

Cuomo, speaking recently at an event with Vice President Joe Biden, quoted from his own father, former Gov.  Mario Cuomo’s famous "tale of two cities" speech at the 1984 Democratic convention, saying he wanted to continue his father’s cause of economic justice by making a $15 an hour universal minimum wage in New York a top priority.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

The New York state’s education commissioner says she’s open to granting waivers to delay new teacher evaluation for an additional year, saying the new systems should not be hastily pushed through because of an arbitrary date.

The latest version of teacher and principal evaluations were pushed through in this year’s state budget by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It requires that the reviews be based more heavily on controversial standardized tests. The new plans are due this fall.

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School administrators are closely watching a letter campaign that’s taking place in the as school starts that could lead to even more children opting out of state standardized tests.

Eileen Buckley / WBFO News file photo

New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen is clarifying her stand on the opt out movement in an interview with New York State Public Radio & Television.

This year, 20 percent of children boycotted the third through eight grade math and English tests associated with the Common Core learning standards.

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says parents absolutely have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests, but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back into the fold.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s labor commissioner is likely in the next few days to finalize a phased in hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast food workers. That action dismays some business groups, who say it will have some unintended consequences.

The governor, after unsuccessfully trying to raise the minimum wage further through the legislature, appointed a wage board, which voted in July to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour over the next several years. Cuomo spoke to jubilant fast food workers and union leaders when the vote was announced.

stgermh / Flickr

A New York State Board of Elections investigator appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have found a back door way into breaking some of the secrecy surrounding a major campaign contribution loophole in New York.

Eileen Buckley / WBFO News file photo

The New York state education commissioner’s plans to quell the testing opt out movement is getting some back lash from some Republicans in the legislature, including a former teacher.  

At a recent conference held by the teacher’s group Educators for Excellence, New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says she plans to try to convince parents not have their children repeat this year’s boycott of standardized tests associated with the Common Core learning standards, which resulted in 20 percent of students statewide opting out of the tests.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The controversial state ethics commission is in the midst of a review by a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature. Government reform groups say they’ve already been asked to give their opinions on how to fix some of the commission’s problems.

wadester16 / Flickr

New York’s first openly gay state legislator says it’s time to appoint an LGBT person to the state’s highest court.

When Assemblywoman Deborah Glick was first elected to her job nearly a quarter century ago, she was the first state lawmaker to publicly disclose that she’s a lesbian. Back then, there was no same-sex marriage, and there was not even a law against discriminating against New Yorkers based on their sexual orientation. Glick helped that law get passed in 2002.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

There’s been an unusual focus on upstate New York among top state politicians from the downstate area in recent weeks.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a speech in Utica Thursday, says downstate lawmakers -- who numerically dominate  the legislature -- have been unified in seeking aid and programs for New York City and Long Island. But he says upstate lawmakers are more balkanized and have been largely unsuccessful.

“There is no place called upstate,” said Cuomo, who said New Yorkers tend to identify with the city they leave nearest, like Syracuse or Buffalo or Rochester.

Alberto G. / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he doubts that there will be  federal sanctions for schools that have high rates of students who boycotted standardized tests this spring.

Twenty percent of students statewide boycotted the controversial exams associated with the Common Core learning standards, with higher rates upstate and on Long Island. Federal officials had the power to sanction schools with high opt our rates by withholding funding, and the state’s education commissioner said a few days ago that she was talking to officials and would not rule out the sanctions compete.

timlewisnm / Flickr

A new school year is starting soon, and education officials say they will try to reverse a growing movement of parents having their children opt out of standardized tests.  The boycott could jeopardize a new system of teacher evaluations that are based on the exams and were supposed to begin later this fall.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York State Board of Elections recently issued its final report on an experimental public campaign finance system that had no participants. Government reform groups say it’s another sign that the pilot program for one race in the 2014 election cycle was designed to fail, and that politicians in New York are not yet serious about real campaign finance reforms.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York state’s Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx native, has spent a portion of the summer touring upstate New York. The speaker replaced Sheldon Silver who was arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

Heastie has been to Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse and Utica, the Thousand Islands and surrounding areas as part of a listening tour to familiarize himself with issues that might not be front and center in New York City.  

“I’m used to cement,” said, Heastie who said says he’s “gained an appreciation” of the beauty of upstate regions.

NY Assembly Video (file)

The speaker of the New York State Assembly says any talks about convincing General Electric executives to relocate their headquarters back to New York should include discussions on the company’s Superfund cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River that’s about to end.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been talking to GE executives, trying to lure the company’s corporate headquarters back to New York, according to a report by Politico New York.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

As the fourth anniversary of the devastating storms Irene and Lee approaches, the Cuomo administration says it’s more ready than ever for hurricanes, floods, and other adverse weather events .

Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office in 2011, there’s been a succession of severe storms, including hurricanes Irene and Lee that brought massive flooding to upstate and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that flooded beach front communities on Long Island and submerged portions of the New York City subway system in corrosive salt water.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been making frequent trips to upstate cities this summer, touting his success in reviving the regions’ faltering economy. But a new report from the New York state comptroller on job creation shows there is still some work to do.

stgermh / Flickr

 

New Yorkers will get their first chance in 20 years to vote on whether to hold a convention to change the state’s constitution in November of 2017. But groups advocating for an informed vote on the issue say it’s not too early to start getting the word out.

A constitutional convention, dry as it may sound, has the potential to make big changes to New York’s government. Delegates could decide to switch to a unicameral legislature, or require that lawmakers be full time. They could also tighten what critics say are lax campaign contribution laws.  

Eileen Buckley / WBFO News file photo

New York State Education officials say there’s some improvement in the Common Core aligned math and English tests taken by third through eighth graders this year, but admit that two-thirds of the students who took the test are still, essentially, failing the exams.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who just began her job in July, put the best face on data that shows student test scores in third through eighth grade math and English tests have made just incremental progress in year three of the state’s implementation of the Common Core learning standards.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll try to get the state legislature to broaden an increase in the state’s minimum wage beyond fast food workers, but the newly appointed deputy majority leader of the state Senate is throwing some cold water on that plan.

Cuomo, who used his executive powers through a wage board to phase in a $15 an hour rate for fast food workers, says next he wants to try to get a similar increase through the state legislature next year. Earlier, he spoke about his desire to increase the minimum wage for all workers.

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