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Cuomo criticized for tapping tech billionaires to rebuild New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking help from Bill Gates and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in “reimagining” how New York’s schools, transit systems, and other functions can recover and improve after the pandemic, but New Yorkers to lawmakers to teachers have criticized the move. 

While Cuomo has said the pandemic could be used as an opportunity to improve New York’s systems, State Sen. Mike Gianaris said enlisting the two tech giants “is not good.”

“These are not people who should determine for us how best to provide services to everyday New Yorkers,” he said in a tweet. “Instead, we should tax them more so people whose job it is to decide state policy can do so more effectively.”


The coronavirus has drawn attention to wealth inequality in the United States, potentially raising questions over whether two billionaires who don’t live in New York full-time are the best people for the job. Even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has pointed out the pandemic’s impact on inequality, and said that millionaires and billionaires should do more. 

Gates will help the state “reimagine” its education systems, building on remote learning, and Schmidt will separately work on improving infrastructure and systems like broadband access and telehealth. 

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said in a statement that, “if we want to reimagine education,” the state should focus on the need for social workers, mental health counselors, and other resources. 

“Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs,” Pallotta said. “And let’s recognize educators as the experts they are by including them in these discussions about improving our public education system for every student.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo referred Business Insider to a tweet from the governor’s secretary, Melissa DeRosa, that said “teachers are heroes & nothing could ever replace in-person learning,” and that the education task force involving Gates will focus on using technology “most effectively while schools are closed & to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are.” 

Gates, and his foundation co-founded with his wife, Melinda Gates, has become an even larger figure during the pandemic, providing insight about the virus and possible ways out of the pandemic. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has previously worked with New York state on education initiatives, but a report at the time from nonprofit policy think tank RAND found that the effort was not effective in improving graduation rates or teacher retention rates, as Business Insider’s Jeremy Berke reported in 2018

Schmidt has also previously worked with New York state on education, advising Cuomo on classroom technology — but the move raised concerns that Schmidt’s role as the current chief executive of Google created a conflict of interest

Conservative pundits also criticized Cuomo’s announcement. DeAnna Lorraine, who previously challenged Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her congressional seat, said on Twitter that “there is nothing good that will come of this. At all.” 


Fox News host Laura Ingraham said that “Gates should run for president. He wants to run your lives.” 

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