You are here

Cuomo Proposes Tying Education Funding to Reforms

Time Warner Cable News
January 21, 2015

By Geoff Redick

ALBANY, N.Y.-- In what can be described as an education "power play" with state lawmakers, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to tie nearly $800 million in school funding to his aggressive education reform plan, laid out during his fifth State of the State address Wednesday.

"I understand there's going to be political problems," Cuomo told his audience at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. "But if we want to invest in the system, then make it the right system."

The education plank of Cuomo's "2015 New York State of Opportunity" is an 11-point reform plan, including:

"professionalizing" teaching and increasing performance standards
strengthening teacher evaluations
rewarding effective teachers
transforming failing schools
removing ineffective teachers
expanding charter schools
passing the DREAM Act
expanding mayoral control
continuing support for 4-year-old Pre-K
initiating 3-year-old Pre-K
establishing a New York Mentoring Commission
"This is the year to do it," Cuomo said. "This is the year to roll up our sleeves."

Cuomo wants all 11 reforms passed as one. In exchange, the governor says he'll work to increase New York's education aid allocation from a scheduled $377 million, to $1.1 billion the next year — a 4.8 percent increase.

"Let's make the hard choices once," he said. "Let's stand up for the kids, once."

Cuomo has also drawn up incentives for teachers, including $20,000 payouts for high-performing educators, and tying teacher tenure to classroom performance.

The state teachers' union says Cuomo's incentive plan crosses a line.

"Massachusetts has implemented a merit scheme in teaching, and it's proved to not be effective," said NYSUT president Karen Magee following the speech. "It inhibits collaboration; it stops the work."

In a statement, Magee slammed the governor's education plank for "intellectually hollow rhetoric that misrepresents the state of teaching and learning." Magee called for greater, immediate school funding, and blamed state government for what she calls the "poverty and under-funding" that have plagued urban schools for decades.

Already, one of the governor's incentive plans is in motion: the Master Teachers program, which began its work in 2014, is paying hundreds of well-performing teachers a $15,000 stipend to help form high standards for STEM education.

"To help our students better achieve goals in college and career-readiness," said new Master Teacher Anne Ippolito, "it will definitely be a benefit to teachers and students alike."

It's one merit-based program that NYSUT is at least willing to wait-and-see on: "I'd be more than happy to engage the governor on the Master Teachers program," Magee said Wednesday.

On higher education, the governor outlined hopeful reforms for New York's community college system. Cuomo wants to align the colleges with the Regional Economic Development Councils, and shape them more like trade schools, to specifically train students for high-demand jobs that already exist in New York.