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Cuomo Forms Panel to Make 'Action Plan' for Education

Monday, April 30, 2012 - 06:01 PM

ALBANY — Declaring that “government has failed to do what government should be doing,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo moved on Monday to assert his influence over New York State's education policy, appointing a former Citigroup chairman to lead a new commission charged with improving student performance.

The leader of the new panel, Richard D. Parsons, had also been the chairman and chief executive of Time Warner.

Mr. Cuomo, seated in his ceremonial office behind a placard that read “Putting Students First,” called for a “soup-to-nuts” review of the state’s education system. Among the topics he asked the panel to consider were teacher recruitment, school financing and the consolidation of school bureaucracies.

“I want a blueprint,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I want a report that can be translated into legislation, which can be translated and enacted into an action plan to make this state’s education system the best on the globe. Period. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Mr. Cuomo has made education an increasing priority. This year, he negotiated the creation of a more rigorous evaluation system for teachers, and he is currently trying to broker a dispute over whether the evaluations should be released publicly.

He asked the commission to submit preliminary recommendations by Dec. 1. On Monday, Mr. Parsons declined to answer questions about specific ideas the panel might pursue, saying the commission needed time to get its footing.

“None of us are here today to sort of beat up on the public school system,” Mr. Parsons said. He noted that the state had many excellent public schools, adding, “We’re going to be trying to figure out: How do you make excellence systemic reality across the board, as opposed to the exception?”

Other commission members include Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Geoffrey Canada, the leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The chancellors of the State and City Universities of New York are also members, as is John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner.

But the panel does not include anyone from a parent advocacy group, an omission that some education advocates were quick to point out, nor any members of the Board of Regents, which is charged with overseeing the state’s education policy.

Leonie Haimson, founder and executive director of Class Size Matters, made up largely of New York City parents, sent a Twitter message expressing her disappointment.

"I'm upset and sure other parents are as well," she said in an e-mail. "He seems so eager to say that he speaks for the students, by ignoring what parents have to say. Instead he selected the same bunch of corporate reformers, out to impose their large scale experiments on our kids."

Asked whether his commission had stepped on the turf of the Board of Regents, Mr. Cuomo said that Dr. King would represent the board on the panel.

The news release from the governor's office includes the list of commission members and their affiliations. An administration official said part of its work would involve holding public hearings around the state.

The formation of the commission came as Mr. Cuomo’s office disclosed that David Wakelyn, an education adviser, was leaving the administration.

Mr. Cuomo appointed Mr. Wakelyn, an official at the National Governors Association, in September to serve as his deputy secretary for education. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Mr. Wakelyn had submitted his resignation to take a consulting position.

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