Cuomo’s better plan to improve schools

Rather than follow Mayor Bloomberg’s myopic “close them” mantra for dealing with challenged schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a more enlightened and productive path by proposing innovative education initiatives supported by progressive education experts and teachers unions.

Cuomo used part of his Jan. 9 State of the State address to outline proposals that show a keen understanding of students’ needs as well as a welcome appreciation for the challenges of the teaching profession and urban education.

He endorsed the UFT-backed idea of community schools, which turns participating schools into neighborhood hubs for a range of social services such as medical care and mental health programs in areas where they are most needed.

He supported expanding full-day prekindergarten for children in high-needs districts, which the UFT has always backed, and a new barlike exam for teachers proposed by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The governor’s ideas also include plans to create a way for “master” teachers to share their strategies and help other educators hone their skills. Cuomo also wants to allow school districts to increase learning time for students through a competitive grant program that schools can use to help restore enrichment programs in music and the arts.

Cuomo’s proposals are not panaceas for the many ills and challenges facing city schools during a time of economic distress, but they are helpful steps in the right direction for improving public education.

And they represent refreshing alternatives to the insensitive and disruptive education policies of Mayor Bloomberg.

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