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Punishing Teachers: Cuomo in 2015 Was Jindal in 2012

January 21, 2015

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to kill traditional public education in New York. His plan follows the all-too-familiar corporate reform script of evaluating teachers using test scores– with Cuomo proposing upping the NYS ante from 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to 50 percent.

He also wants teachers who are rated “ineffective” for two years in a row to face potential dismissal. In order for a teacher to earn tenure, Cuomo proposes five straight years of “high” ratings (however that is defined).

The above punitive “reforms” are familiar to Louisiana teachers.

In Louisiana in 2012, second-term-elected Governor Jindal commanded the legislature. As for his test-driven education agenda, Jindal had the legislature pass Act 1, commonly known as the Teacher Tenure Law, in short order. That is the legislation that officially ushered in Louisiana teachers’ being graded using their students’ test scores, with 50 percent of the annual teacher evaluation based on student scores and 50 percent, on administrative evaluation. Teachers are rated in one of four categories–“highly effective,” “effective,” “effective emerging,” and “ineffective.” An “ineffective” rating via test scores is enough for a teacher to be declared “ineffective” overall.

For teachers to have tenure, they must be rated “highly effective” for five out of six years.

Looks like Cuomo has taken his 2015 State of the State teacher evaluation ideas from Louisiana in 2012.

However, as much as Cuomo desires to hand traditional public education over to charter-run privatization, he will not be able to do so with the same ease that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal did so in Louisiana’s 2012 legislative session.

In 2015, New York has a divided legislature: Democrats control the Assembly, and Republicans, the Senate. As to Cuomo’s education agenda, it seems that the Democratic Assembly will not automatically ally with Cuomo for their belonging to the same party.

This is good news for New York public schools and their teachers. As the January 21, 2015, New York Times observes:

Mr. Cuomo’s 84-minute speech, delivered in a convention center adjacent to the Capitol, was meant to set the tone for the new legislative session and for the governor’s second term. …

But his pairing of inducements to both sides in the education-reform debate… did not immediately win anyone over. …

Much of what Mr. Cuomo is proposing (not just in education) will encounter stiff resistance in the divided Legislature, where Republicans are now firmly in control of the State Senate, and Democrats dominate the Assembly.

The most bitter fight in Albany could come on education reform. Though Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, offered up $1.1 billion in new school aid, he attached strings that could kill the deal for allies of the teachers’ unions in the Assembly: a much more rigorous teacher evaluation system to replace the current one, new hurdles for teachers on the path to tenure, and an expansion by 100 of the limit on the number of charter schools statewide.

The New York Democratic reluctance to embrace Cuomo’s punitive efforts towards public school teachers might also reflect a greater Democratic Party awareness that voters are growing weary of hearing politicians publicly brow beat American education– with the highest-ranking American Democrat, out-going President Barack Obama apparently taking the hint. As education historian Diane Ravitch observes regarding Obama’s January 20, 2015, State of the Union Address:

There was a new tone in the President’s brief comments about education in his State of the Union address. …

What was welcome was the absence of fear-mongering about our public schools. No crisis talk about how nations with higher scores would take away our jobs and ruin future economic growth. …

I don’t know if anyone gave much thought to this shift to a positive tone, but it definitely represents a repudiation of the “reformers’” sky-is-falling rhetoric. No reference to “obsolete” high schools, to “failing schools,” or to the ludicrous claim (advanced by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice) that our public schools threaten our national security.

Even better, the President did not attribute the slow, steady gains to Race to the Top, nor did he pitch merit pay or teacher evaluation by test scores (VAM) as panaceas as he has done in previous SOTU. There were no paeans of praise to charters or to turning schools around by firing their staff.

Perhaps the Democratic Party is aware of the need to steer clear of the public education blame game since the out-going Democratic president has done more in two terms to accuse public education than he has to support it.

Indeed, SOTU ratings betray Democrat Obama’s failing popularity, with his January 2015 SOTU garnering the lowest rating in 15 years according to InsideTV.

If Obama’s words in his SOTU are any indication, then the Democratic Party might be trying to put on a fresh face by distancing itself from the punitive education reforms engendered in Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT), which, at this point, only serves as fodder to usher in a Republican presidency if for no other reason than public desire for a change of party in the White House.

Moreover, if “Democrat” Cuomo is not careful, he might find himself going the way of “Democrat” Michelle Rhee, whose “reform with a vengeance” actions served to alienate her from fellow privatizing reformers.

Cuomo is already unpopular. Yes, he won re-election; however, voter turnout for that election was the lowest possibly since FDR’s election as New York governor in 1930— and that despite New York State population growing by seven million since then. And in the September 2014 Democratic primary, Cuomo only received 60 percent of the vote.

Not so stellar an exit from the second-term starting gate.

Even though Cuomo is itching to show those supposedly-“ineffective” New York teachers who’s boss, he cannot do so without going through a divided New York legislature that is not enthused about his proposed education reforms. That’s good news for New York public education. Also in Cuomo’s case, his attacks on traditional public teachers and schools could alienate him from constituents in more affluent New York districts.

On the one-way street of potential success as a second-term Democratic governor, right out of the starting gate, Cuomo is headed in the wrong direction with his overcooked, teacher-punishing reform package.

He’s traveling back in time, to Louisiana in 2012, and copying a Republican governor.

Not a smart move for a Democratic governor in 2015.

I wonder if his bloated ego allows him on some level to know that.



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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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  1. Thank you! I just shared this analysis with my local state legislator. I trust Joe Robach and know he’ll do the right thing when we provide him a clear analysis of what’s really going on here in New York.

  2. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    Hopefully, Cuomo won’t have a grossly compliant legislature such as Jindal had when he began to carry out his “reforms” in 2012.

  3. Donna permalink

    And he wants $50 Million to renovate the State Fair – who is going to spend money at and frequent the renovated space when everyone is unemployed? Cuomo is a moron with a god complex. The future is a frightening place, with the majority on bread lines and banks owning all the properties.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Is Andrew Cuomo Copying Bobby Jindal? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The Top-10 Most Unwanted List—the Enemies of Public Education | Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé
  3. The Top-10 Most Unwanted List—the Enemies of Public Education | EduBloggers

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