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Applauding the Governor for Taking on the Teachers’ Unions

Good for Governor Andrew Cuomo. In his State of the State message, he took on New York state’s education machine. He tread where previous governors feared to tread. Cuomo showed more courage than most of our politicians do or have.

Your community may have good public schools, with good teachers. But a lot of communities have horrible schools, with lousy teachers. This is not new. Teachers’ unions have fought like pit bulls against reforms. They have threatened and bought off politicians.

The governor tells us he has had enough of the charade. He calls the system a “failing public monopoly.” In many of New York’s inner-city schools, it certainly is that. Cuomo calls the system that evaluates teachers “baloney.” It is.

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Year after year, the unions say the only way to fix things is to add money. Yes, more money for a system that spends more per pupil than nearly all the other states. More money is always the answer.

Cuomo says, “Don’t tell me if we only had more money it would change. Money without reform only grows the bureaucracy. It does not improve performance.” 

Here are some of the reforms he proposes.

Most charter schools have been an improvement on nearby public schools. Cuomo wants to add more of them. Especially in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has been trying to cut the sod out from under them. Cuomo wants to give an extra $750 per student to charter schools. To make up some for aid they are denied. He also wants to give a break to kids who are stuck in rotten schools. He proposes they get preference in lotteries for charters.

Kids’ exam performance and teacher evaluations? Let’s ignore any connections. So say the unions. Cuomo says let’s increase connections. Tenure? Let’s make teachers earn “effective” ratings for five years first. Instead of three. And if their students do poorly on state exams, teachers can’t get “effective” grades.

If teachers are accused of sexual misconduct, let’s suspend them immediately — without pay. Give them back pay if they’re cleared. Good teachers, those who are regularly rated “highly effective,” ought to get bonuses, the governor says. 

Suppose you donate to public schools or scholarship funds for kids in parochial schools. You should get a tax credit, the governor says.

Meanwhile, if a school fails year after year, it should be taken over by a nonprofit or turnaround expert. One that has power to overhaul curricula and power to sack under-performing teachers.

Union leaders immediately attacked the governor’s proposals. It is sad that teachers’ unions have protected the worst parts of the system for so long. They have done somersaults to shield lousy teachers. And to keep perverts and dunces on the payroll. In doing so, they have swatted inner-city kids with the back of their hands.

Politics is a grungy business. No news to you. It is super-grungy in New York, where the legislature is a minor league for our prisons. 

Many a just cause gets squashed in Albany. Becomes victim to payoffs to the politicians. Or, victim to “deals.” We’ll go along with what you want, but only if you ditch your other proposal.

Many a just cause gets shoved to a back burner year after year. Until some politicians quietly turn off the gas.

Many a pol will say with a straight face exactly what unions pay him to say — that there are no problems with bad teachers. No problems with bad schools. This is a wonderful system that serves students well. It just needs more money. And, less competition.

But sometimes a politician has the guts to proclaim the truth. These are only proposals. Unions will fight the governor over their every word. But for now, Cuomo has taken a stand for a precious group of citizens.

“Let’s remember the children in the process,” he says. “Then we’ll end up doing the right thing.”

You are doing the right thing, governor. 

From Tom…as in Morgan.        

Tom Morgan writes about political, financial, and other subjects from his home near Oneonta, in addition to his radio shows and TV show. Contact him at tomasinmorgan@yahoo.com

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