Cuomo Ties State Aid to Teacher Evaluations

The battle over a state teacher evaluation system is heating up, with both Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg using the occasion of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday to attack what Mr. Bloomberg called "special interests and the defenders of the status quo."

The New York Times reports that the governor and mayor each took aim at the teachers' unions at M.L.K. Day events to say they would not back down from their demands that teachers move forward on a framework that the State Legislature approved in 2010 for "a new evaluation system that would be more specific and would allow for tougher sanctions against teachers who are rated ineffective."

But the governor is about to take his battle to another level, The News and The Post reported over the weekend. The Times reports:

Mr. Cuomo, according to people who have been told of his plans, will announce on Tuesday, as part of his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, that he will require the creation of an evaluation system as a condition for school districts to receive a scheduled increase in state education aid.

The state agreed to institute a teacher evaluation system as part of the terms for the $700 million it was awarded in federal Race to the Top aid. But The News reported that $100 million in federal school improvement grants and nearly $200 million in teacher incentive funds are also at stake, putting the total funds in jeopardy at about $1 billion.

According to The Times:

Under his plan, Mr. Cuomo will effectively order the statewide teachers’ union and the State Education Department to settle a continuing legal dispute over evaluations and to agree to standards for the evaluation system. If they cannot, he will seek to impose an evaluation system as part of the state budget, which must be approved by the end of March, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr. Cuomo’s budget was not yet public.

The state and city teachers' unions had this to say, according to The Times:

Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said that while the union shared “the governor’s frustration over the implementation of the law,” tying teacher evaluations to state education aid was the “wrong approach.”

“We think supporting teachers and unions in their work is a much better approach,” Mr. Korn said.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents city teachers, focused his criticism on Mr. Bloomberg. “I believe he’s trying to use this as sort of political grandstanding,” he said.

Mr. Mulgrew, noting that his union had “no disagreement with the governor over the evaluations,” did not object to Mr. Cuomo’s tying the increase in education aid to the creation of the evaluation system.

“We’re just as frustrated as he is, and I publicly came out and asked him to get involved,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo will present his executive budget in Albany on Tuesday at 2 p.m. It will be streamed live on the governor's Web site.

Looking ahead, on Wednesday the second hearing of 25 will be held for schools that have been proposed for closing. The first hearing, at the Middle School for the Arts, or M.S. 587 in Brooklyn, took place last Thursday. The school had been opened by the Bloomberg administration to replace another low-performing school, M.S. 391, Gotham Schools reported on Friday. About 40 students, parents and others turned out, Gotham says.

Hearings are scheduled through Feb. 3, with multiple meetings on some nights, starting with Wednesday night at P.S. 19 Roberto Clemente in Brooklyn. A full list of the hearings and dates can be found here.

On the Learning Network on Tuesday, here's the question for students: What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
It is off the Sunday Review article, "The Rise of the New Groupthink."