Cuomo’s Battle for Education in New York

By Amelia Hamilton Published on March 6, 2015

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finds himself battling teachers and teachers’ unions in his state over proposed education reforms. Under his proposal, student test scores would be more heavily tied to teacher evaluations, increase state power over failing schools, and more charter schools would be added throughout New York. Teachers aren’t having it.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), with more than 600,000 members, is a federation of local teachers’ unions (AFT and NEA), as well as being a part of the AFL-CIO. They are bringing their considerable clout to bear against these proposals, with more than 1,000 teachers rallying at the state capitol on Monday. “We’ve never been attacked like this before. We have a Democratic governor who is doing everything he can to build up the charter school and tear down the public schools and I think people have had enough,” Kelly Ward, a 4th grade teacher at Slingerlands Elementary, told CBS6 Albany. Cuomo, however, has said that this isn’t about the teachers. “I love teachers,” Cuomo said, at a separate event in upstate New York on Wednesday. “But if you are a poorly performing teacher for several years, we want to get those teachers out of the classroom. That’s not because I don’t like teachers. It’s because I respect teachers and know this is about the students.”

Charter schools fought back, holding their own rally Wednesday with thousands of students attending, and singer Ashanti entertaining the group (while the other side of the debate has a musical argument, too, it’s somehow less compelling). “We are here to send a message,” said Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor, “A message that failure is not an option.”

The Governor’s office issued a statement saying “Over the last 15 years, spending on education in New York has more than doubled, from $28 billion to $58 billion, and we spend more per pupil than any other state in the nation, yet our students remain in the bottom half when it comes to results. Clearly throwing more money at the problem isn’t working. The Governor is fighting to reform a system that has condemned 250,000 children to failing schools over the last 10 years, while New York has led the nation in education spending. Teaching is an important and admirable profession, and that’s why we’re seeking to reward the best ones with merit pay and offer a free college education to the best and brightest aspiring teachers. Frankly, the louder special interests scream, the more we know we’re right.”

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