In February, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo famously claimed the title of ‘student lobbyist’ and heralded his breakthrough in holding the state’s teachers to standards of accountability.
February’s agreement “puts in place a ground-breaking” teacher-evaluation system “that will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable,” the gov boasted at the time.
He said the plan would “transform” the state’s schools — and he applauded the parties for “working together and putting the needs of students ahead of politics.”
However, according to the latest report from New York State Education Department only 214 of over 700 districts have submitted plans that have been accepted by their unions. The rest are still haggling over fine print despite a supposed deadline of July 1st.
It has emerged that the problem is that Cuomo’s solution left the details to be worked out by local school and union officials — and in many cases union officials have no intention of ceding ground. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering that the unions exist to protect and advocate for their members.
More bizarre is that Cuomo created a system with such an obvious flaw to the extent that it could be accused of being unworkable by design, when it was developed specifically to fix a 2010 teacher evaluation law which he derided as being ‘unworkable by design’.
The problem with the 2010 law was that it let the union veto any plan that negatively affected them. The problem with the new system is that it allows the unions to simply stonewall any plan that negatively impacts them.
Cuomo had hoped that linking state aid approval to the agreements would ensure that they were put in place quickly, however, the unions are still largely unwilling to cede any ground.
You can’t blame the unions, of course: After all, they’re not in business to permit their members to be “held accountable.”
But that’s why we said last winter that “as long as Cuomo leaves the union with a veto over reforms, there’ll never be any — even if districts lose state aid.”
Today, Cuomo doesn’t seem fazed by the paltry progress.
It seems that Cuomo’s solution didn’t actually have enough bite to persuade or coerce the unions into cooperating. The unions’ intransigence is only likely to solidify after a recent court ruling against the city’s plan to close 24 failing schools following union refusal to agree to a teacher-grading plan.