Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized New York’s teacher unions last week following his State of the State Address, claiming that the unions become overly self-serving and their purpose has been “flipped.”
Speaking with the New York Daily News Editorial Board last Thursday, Cuomo called teacher unions an “industry” that is supposed to be working to improve the educational system but has instead prioritized preserving the rights of its own members. Cuomo told the board about a disagreement he said that he had with a teacher union member who’d stated he was protecting his students.
Cuomo said that he told the teacher “You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But don’t say you represent the students.”
“Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this,” Cuomo said. “This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers.”
Cuomo said that the public must be made aware of the problems in the state’s education system. “If (the public) understood what was happening with education to their children, there would be an outrage in this city,” Cuomo said. “I’m telling you, they would take City Hall down brick by brick.”
“It’s only because it’s complicated that people don’t get it,” Cuomo said. He added that “Education reform will come when people understand the story of education fully.”
Cuomo’s remarks to the editorial board followed his State of the State Address last Wednesday, where he had noted plans to reform the state’s education system as part of his $141.6 billion 2015-16 budget proposal. Included in those education reform proposals:
- Granting more power to the state to fix failing schools
- Expanding charter schools
- Creating new standards that incoming teachers must meet; Cuomo said that almost a third of incoming teachers were not reading at a high school senior level.
- A $20 million “Teacher Excellence Fund” in which teachers deemed highly effective would be eligible for a $20,000 bonus
- “Expeditiously but fairly” firing ineffective teachers by streamlining the current discipline and termination system
- Changing teacher tenure policy that currently grants tenure to teachers after 3 years to a new standard that “proposes that a teacher must receive five consecutive annual ratings of effective or highly effective before tenure is granted.”
Cuomo also placed the state DREAM ACT, which would provide state financial assistance to college students who are the children of undocumented immigrants, alongside an education tax credit for those who donate money to public or private schools in his budget bill.
“I understand there’s going to be political problems for people on both sides of the aisle,” Cuomo said last Wednesday. “And they will be besieged by lobbyists.”
Cuomo’s proposals for education reform were rebuked by United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “What the Governor’s clearly saying, that he’s going to fix education by attacking the people who work in the school buildings,” Mulgrew said.