The state Assembly’s Education Committee chairwoman chided New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday for his part in the city and teachers union’s failure to agree on a teacher evaluation plan, which resulted in the loss of $240 million in state funds and more in federal grants.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, who has close ties with unions, urged Bloomberg to offer a strategy for how he’ll mitigate the “disaster.” The mayor is in Albany Monday for what’s known as the “tin cup brigade,” when local government representatives testify before the Legislature on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, pushing for more money.
“Now, we’re sitting here, and I have to look at my son, who is a freshman in a New York City high school, and say to him he’s going to be punished because the adults couldn’t work it out?” Nolan said to Bloomberg, raising her voice. “I really thought you’d come here and say that everybody bears some responsibility, and let’s try to work it out. But that’s not what I heard.
“And I will say that’s not what I’ve heard publicly from the union or anybody in this debacle,” she continued. “And I don’t know what we do now. And I am kind of hoping that we can hear a strategy from you, because I’ve enjoyed working with you all these years. And I kind of thought we would hear a strategy on how we could recover from this disaster. And I do consider it a disaster.”
“What’s happened in the last 10 years—there is nobody—nobody—including President Obama and his secretary of education, that wouldn’t tell you that we’ve made dramatic improvements in our school system,” Bloomberg responded. “Is it perfect? Is every one of our children going to get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton? No. But there is no other system – certainly, big city school system—in the country that has improved the way we have.”
Bloomberg lobbed responsibility on the state for the money being withheld. He argued that Cuomo and the Legislature passed the law tying the money to the evaluation plan. He took issue, also, that the law requires two years before a bad evaluation could lead to a teacher’s removal.
He wouldn’t agree to the United Federation of Teachers’ evaluation plan by the Jan. 17 deadline because it expired after two years, which he said would be “a sham.” More than 90 percent of districts have one-year plans.
“Can you explain to me how on earth anybody is going to get evaluated? The law prohibits you from being evaluated in one year,” Bloomberg said, criticizing the other schools’ plans. “These are just jokes, Cathy. This is exactly what happens. People are saying they did something, and they didn’t do it. None of them will effectively rate the teachers and let the school system do something about it.”
“But incremental progress is how government works,” Nolan said.
She stressed that most other districts came to an agreement on time.
“Everybody else is just interested in getting the money and committing what I would call fraud,” he said.