Cuomo: Carrots and Sticks for Schools
January 17th, 2012
Two weeks after he signaled his intention to focus on education, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today filled in some of the details and inserted himself squarely in the dispute over teacher evaluation.
In his budget address Cuomo confirmed that, as announced previously, the state would up its aid to districts by 4.1 percent or $805 million next year for a total of about $20 billion.
Unlike last budget year — when the governor cut spending across the board regardless of a district’s needs — the increase would be weighted toward higher needs areas. These parts of the state will receive 76 percent of the hike and 69 percent of all school aid, according to Cuomo’s Budget Briefing Book.This means New York City stands to gets almost $6.4 billion next year, an increase of 2.6 percent over the approximately $6.2 billion it is getting this year.
Districts also would be able to compete for some $200 million in special state grants, under a New York version of the federal Race to the Top program.
The Road to the Money
But Cuomo put a big condition on all the additional money. To get it, districts will have to come up with a new evaluation system for teachers.
Details after the jump.
Not a single district has yet implemented a new evaluation system as required under the state’s Race to the Top grant from the federal government, Cuomo said. The dispute has jeopardized up to $1 billion in federal funding for New York schools.
Cuomo said the reason to change the way the state grades its teachers goes beyond financial considerations. “If we’re serious about education, we have no choice. This is the way to improve education,” he said.
Cuomo outlined a three-step plan to make a new evaluation system a reality. First, he said, New York State United Teachers and the state Education Department must end the legal wrangling over evaluations and agree to a new system incorporating observations, students achievement (test scores) and more. (The union successfully sued the state to halt such a plan last summer.)
If they can’t do it, Cuomo will propose a system.
The districts then will have until September to implement the state’s evaluation plan. Any that fail to do that will not qualify for the state’s competitive grants.
And finally — and this is huge — any districts that one year from today have not implemented a system will lose their chunk of the 4 percent increase in state education aid. This puts teacher evaluations smack in the middle of the state’s budget process.
In pushing for his change, Cuomo picked up the mantle of the so-called reform movement that, he said, has shifted the country to a greater focus on students and their achievement (and, critics say, to an excessive reliance on test scores). He invoked both President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush. And he styled himself as a champion of kids. “This was not supposed to be about the adults. It was supposed to be about the children,” he said.
For all that, though, he did not single out teachers for criticism. In fact, he said, they “deserve the best evaluation system and help when they need it” as well as rewards and bonuses.
While that puts him at odds with the teachers union, it represents a very different tone from that used by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his State of the City speech last week. Bloomberg then blamed teachers for the impasse over evaluations. In his comments on Cuomo’s speech today, he kept up that refrain.
“The governor has made it clear that he is determined to be a champion for our students – and that he will not allow the teachers union to drag its feet any longer on implementing new teacher evaluation systems across the state. I hope the [United Federation of Teachers] will not recklessly jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars for our schools by insisting on endless obstacles to removing ineffective teachers from our classrooms,” Bloomberg said in a statement. He seemed not to notice that Cuomo had said he would not allow “adults” and the “bureaucracy” — not just the union — to drag their feet.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the city’s teachers union, though clearly thinks he has spotted a bit of sunlight between Bloomberg and Cuomo. Earlier this week, Mulgrew told the Times that he has ““no disagreement with the governor over the evaluations,” and welcomes his involvement. As for Bloomberg, though, Mulgrew accused him of “political grandstanding.”
Mulgrew even has tried to enlist Cuomo as a kind of ally, saying, according to the Daily News, that the governor’s proposal provides “all the more reason why Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education should come back to the negotiations they walked out on and work to resolve the remaining issues.”
Not surprisingly, in his speech Cuomo did address Bloomberg’s plan for the city to remove up to half the teachers from struggling schools — whether the union likes it or not and even if it costs the city millions of dollars. The state education department, which is independent of the governor , gets to rule on that, not Cuomo.
For his part the state education commissioner, John King, struck a conciliatory note with the union today saying in his statement that the department and the union should use the next “30 days to have a healthy public debate on evaluations.” The department, he said, is ready to sit down and start talking.”
The city — justifiably or not — broke off its negotiations with the city teachers union on Dec. 30. At least officially, those discussion have not resumed.By Gail Robinson on January 17, 2012, 5:23 pm
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