One of the jobs of a teacher is to help children learn how to write an accurate sentence and to comprehend the meaning of sentences they read. So, if those are teachers carrying the misleading signs that instruct Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to “Stop attacking public schools,” they are making the case for accurately evaluating teachers.
No one is attacking schools. It’s a disinformation campaign intended to pressure state legislators to deliver more money to schools without requiring the schools to do a better job. It’s a phony crisis, drummed up by unions and others who want nothing to do with the more accurate teacher evaluations that Cuomo is demanding.
Let’s review: Cuomo has promised an increase in state funding – an additional $377 million – and to get that money schools need to do nothing at all different. Just keep doing the same things and, boom, the money shows up.
But he has also promised to triple that amount, delivering $1.1 billion to the schools, if lawmakers enact changes that would serve the cause of education. Not the cause of unions or of teachers or of administrators or of school boards – the cause of educating New York’s students, especially those in cities such as Buffalo, where children are too often cheated out of the productive lives that a good education holds.
Why should this be so difficult? Cuomo isn’t asking for the moon. He is seeking changes that will benefit students but that will require loosening the chokehold that teachers unions have on education. Specifically, his reforms include:
• Reducing – not eliminating – the power of unions and school districts in determining how teachers and principals are evaluated.
• Raising the standards for new teachers to receive tenure.
• Providing $20,000 bonuses for teachers who are rated “highly effective” under a tougher evaluation system and making it easier to remove those who aren’t performing well and who don’t improve.
• Creating higher standards for new teachers and paying tuition for top candidates at State University of New York teacher education programs who commit to teaching in New York for five years.
• Allowing more charter schools across the state and handing over failing public schools to turnaround experts.
• Expanding prekindergarten to 3-year-olds and creating a new tax credit for donations to education groups, including scholarship programs for public and private schools.
None of these requirements is out of line. Indeed, they represent a fair exchange for $700 million-plus in additional funding.
The unions don’t want that. In a state that already has the nation’s highest per-student spending, while producing unremarkable results, they want to keep doing the same things in the same ways, but with a huge infusion of cash that will do virtually nothing to improve education. In any other context, that would be called greed.
Or consider the issue from the reverse perspective. Speaking to The Buffalo News editorial board last month, Cuomo minced no words. “Think about where you are,” he said. “I mean, it’s amazing that anybody still lives in the City of Buffalo and would send their kid to a public school and expect a different outcome, because there’s no evidence that there’s going to be any different outcome.”
It’s indisputable, but changing the outcome has to begin with accurately measuring performance. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Yet teachers, administrators and others are willfully blind about the issue, insisting that Cuomo provide them a blank check, and to do so while they blackmail him with spurious accusations of “attacking public schools.”
There is a solution. Negotiate the changes Cuomo wants, take the money and start doing a better job. Instead of manufacturing a crisis, hammer out a solution that serves New York taxpayers and especially the students. It’s a more grown-up solution than carrying signs meant to deceive.