New York’s Cuomo Suggests Paying Effective Teachers More

In his State of the State speech this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a dramatic proposal to offer bonuses of up to $20,000 for teachers who receive top marks on their evaluations.

Cuomo, siding with education reformers, suggested that teachers rated “highly effective” collect the merit pay from a new Teacher Excellence Fund that would be established by the state. The payouts would have to be agreed by the local school districts as would the local teachers’ unions, which have historically rejected merit-based pay differentials for their members.

Mayor de Blasio, just moments after the 67-minute speech, told reporters he opposes such performance-based bonuses, putting himself squarely on the side of the unions.

“I believe it’s appropriate for strategic reasons to give bonuses, for example, when we have teachers that work in some schools that are really struggling,” he explained after listening to the governor speak in Albany.

It was also appropriate to pay more for math and science teachers who are hard to recruit, according to the mayor, but he came down firmly against Cuomo’s plan.

“I do not believe in, for example, merit pay,” de Blasio declared.

The mayor and governor are already at odds over how to pay for the expansion of pre-Kindergarten classes. At the same time that Cuomo is calling for $2 billion in state tax cuts, De Blasio wants to raise the city income tax on those earning $500,000 or more. In his speech the governor ducked the tough issue, saying merely that he supports universal pre-K, without saying how it should be funded.

According to Tara Palmeri and Carl Campanile of New York Post, Cuomo, with an eye on his re-election in November, delivered a laundry list of initiatives certain to be endorsed by key voting blocs, from tax relief for homeowners and tenants to the legalization of medical marijuana. A five-year license suspension for twice convicted DWI offenders and a lifetime ban of those convicted three times, $2 billion in property-tax relief over three years for property owners, renters and businesses, full tuition scholarships to the top 10 percent of high school graduates who pursue science, technology, engineering or math degrees at SUNY and CUNY and a one-year license suspension for drivers nabbed texting while driving, up from the current six-month penalty, were among the governor’s plethora of proposals.

Cuomo’s speech was generally praised as “progressive” and “pro-active” by de Blasio, who was greeted warmly during his visit to Albany as mayor, with lawmakers tweeting photos of him. Additionally, he even applauded Cuomo’s backing of universal pre-K.

“I heard him say this is the goal for the state . . . I’m suggesting that what we have done already is complimentary to the governor’s goal,” the mayor said.

Cuomo, in another move that some observers viewed as a knock at de Blasio, announced that former city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would become a special adviser to the new SUNY College on Emergency Response, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. Mayor de Blasio blasted Kelly over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy during his campaign for mayor.