In his Jan. 21 State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo embraced the corporate reform agenda for education with a vengeance. He called for raising the cap on charter schools, extending teachers’ probationary period from three to five years, putting struggling schools into “receivership” and basing half a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores.
The governor used his address, which was combined this year with his executive budget, to blame high school teachers for failing to graduate students ready for college and to blame elementary and middle school teachers for failing to get students to pass new and harder ELA and math tests.
Success Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz and anti-tenure crusader Campbell Brown cheered the governor’s proposals, but many public school teachers were incensed.
“The governor’s speech served warmed-up Bloomberg leftovers,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “He ignores the real problems and instead blames the teachers for everything that’s wrong.”
Noting that Cuomo has rarely set foot in a public school classroom, Mulgrew said, “I’m inviting the governor to drop the rhetoric of his hedge-fund pals who hate public education and come visit a real New York City public school, where teachers, kids and parents are working to make education a success.”
Unleashing the power that the governor holds in the state budget process, Cuomo held $1.1 billion in new state school aid hostage to passage of his proposals, which mirror the agenda of the Wall Street corporate reformers who bankrolled his re-election campaign.
With a $5.4 billion windfall in the state budget from legal and financial settlements, the governor was widely expected to increase education spending. But in exchange for a 4.8 percent boost to the state’s schools — half of what the state Regents requested — Cuomo said the Legislature had to pass his education proposals.
The State of the State speech kicks off two months of budget negotiations between the governor and state lawmakers. Giving more clout to the governor this year, Republicans now control the state Senate. The final state budget is due on April 1.
In an email to members, Mulgrew said the State of the State speech was a missed opportunity to enact changes that would improve public schools.
“The governor ignores the real problems facing our public schools: lack of funding, increasing class sizes, rising child poverty and its ripple effects in the classroom, and the lack of support and respect for the educators who have dedicated their lives to helping children learn and grow.”
As a first step, Mulgrew asked UFT members to visit the union’s website and join its social media campaign to invite the governor to their classrooms and tell him what students really need.