Amsterdam News Staff

The education plans slipped into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142 billion budget have left several parties either unresponsive or outright displeased.

As part of the governor’s budget, which was agreed upon last week, the education plan includes $23.5 billion in funding for schools, not counting funds that expand pre-kindergarten statewide; a tougher system of teacher evaluations; and a $75 million fund to help some of the state’s longest-struggling schools.

Many Democrats in Albany weren’t fans of the education portion of the budget, but they voted for it because it included more school aid. As for the teachers and parents? The reaction was a mixed bag.

A statement from the New York State Union of Teachers called the new evaluation system an “unworkable, convoluted plan that undermines local control, disrespects principals and school administration, guts collective bargaining and further feeds the testing beast.”

The statment continued, “The teacher evaluation system imposed by Governor Cuomo is a sham, and he now owns it. From the beginning, the state of New York has witnessed a vengeful governor refusing to engage in honest dialogue about the quality of our public schools, or how to improve teaching and learning. Governor Cuomo is so enamored with hedge fund money that he has refused to consider the educational research; listen to educational professionals; or acknowledge the concerns of tens of thousands of parents who are so angry about his testing madness, they are protecting their children by opting them out of state exams.”

While NYSUT lamented Cuomo’s evaluation program, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded to the new budget with light praise and a wait and see approach.

“The Legislature today, led by the Assembly, reached an agreement on a package of education proposals that will immediately increase state aid to schools, provide that teachers are evaluated on more than a single student test score and ensure local oversight of struggling schools,” said Mulgrew in a statement. “Other hedge fund agenda items, including plans for corporate-style individual teacher merit pay and efforts to undermine teacher due process, are among the issues that have been sidetracked, although they were highlighted in the administration’s attempt earlier this year to pressure the Regents and the Legislature.”

Mulgrew continued, “We will still have many battles to fight even when a new budget is in place. We oppose the raising of the charter cap until charter schools serve an appropriate percentage of the state’s neediest children, and we will be working with the State Education Department on the details of a fair evaluation process for teachers.”

On the other side of things, the New York City Parents Union, a group of pro-education reform parents, praised the education portion of the budget for “putting the interests of New York’s public school children before the adult interests of the teachers union.” The group is part of a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure and layoffs by seniority.

“A quality education is the one tool that is essential for anyone to support themselves and their families,” said Sam Pirozzolo, parent and vice president of the New York City Parents Union, in a statement. “There can be no doubt that our public schools have been falling short of that mark for decades. Now, for the first time in a long time, there is hope that our public school system will be reformed and many more of our children will receive a better education. I also think it was unfortunate that the teachers’ unions chose to fight these reforms instead of offering suggestions to improve the quality of education. In doing so, I feel they have failed their membership and our students by totally eliminating themselves from the conversations and decisions that are about to begin.”