Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to breathe new life into his enervated education agenda today with an ambitious and startling list of proposals that include paying top teachers $20,000 bonuses and bypassing the union to overhaul struggling schools.
Perhaps most interesting is the way that he is outlining, in his 11th State of the City address right now in the Bronx, to resuscitate stalled efforts to transform 33 struggling schools — and still receive the $58 million in federal funds that were supposed to support them. The state cut off the city’s access to those funds last month, arguing that Bloomberg’s failure to reach a deal with the teachers union on evaluations of teachers made the city ineligible for them.
But today Bloomberg argued that the city could still get the federal support without a deal. His plan is to change the city’s approach to overhauling those schools, using the “turnaround” model. That model requires that at least 50 percent of a school’s teachers be removed.
“We believe that when we take this action, we will have fulfilled the state’s requirements and the schools will be eligible for the $58 million in funding,” he is set to say.
The city had originally wanted to use the turnaround model, one of four federally mandated options, to overhaul the 33 schools. But it turned to backup models, “transformation” and “restart,” because the union would not agree. Today, Bloomberg says he believes the union’s current contract permits turnaround, according to his prepared remarks.
In a telephone call before the address, a union official said immediately that that was not the case, auguring a fight that could drag on or even wind up in court.
The proposal is one of several surprising and bold education plans that Bloomberg is outlining today at the city’s oldest high school, Morris High School in the South Bronx. Fully half of his State of the City address is devoted to education.
Other proposals include a $20,000 raise for teachers who get the top rating on the disputed evaluations for two years in a row and $25,000 to pay off student loans for new teachers who come from the top of their college class.
Those policies are designed to attract and retain good teachers, and Bloomberg is arguing that he expects the union’s support for them. The proposals, of course, depend on evaluations that the city and the union have not yet agreed on. And the $20,000 bonuses also represent individual merit pay for teachers, which the United Federation of Teachers has rejected in the past.
The mayor said the city is ramping up plans for the new schools that Chancellor Dennis Walcott introduced in September. Bloomberg said the city will open 100 new schools before he leaves office in 2013, including 50 charter schools. The city will help some charter networks — such as KIPP and Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools — grow faster and also bring in new charter school operators to the city. One of those, a chain called Rocketship that focuses on the technology-infused “blended learning” model, has already accepted the city’s invitation, Bloomberg announced.
And Bloomberg announced new efforts to push students along the path to college, by helping them get financial aid, and careers, through new schools with a vocational focus and a mentoring program involving local businesses.
Bloomberg left lots of questions unanswered: How does the workaround at the 33 struggling schools resolve the conflict over teacher evaluations? Will the state start federal funds flowing now, even though the switch to turnaround wouldn’t happen until September? Where will the funds for raises and loan repayments come from? Are the charter school networks Bloomberg mentions prepared to scale up faster?
We will be trying to find answers to these questions and others this afternoon.
In chronological order, according to the prepared remarks, Bloomberg proposed to:
- Give new teachers who come from the “top tier” of their college class $25,000 to pay off student loans.
- Raise the salaries of teachers who are rated “highly effective” for two years on new evaluations by $20,000
- Use a turnaround program in state law to remove half of teachers at SIG schools, to get federal funding back
- Open 100 new schools in the next two years, including 50 charter schools
- Speed the expansion plans of charter networks such as KIPP and Success Academy
- Recruit new charter school operators to come to the city, such as Rocketship, which has committed
- Open three new grade 9-14 schools and at least a dozen new career and technical schools and programs
- Ask local business and companies to offer mentoring and internships for students; Bloomberg LP is in
- Help students apply for federal financial aid, using assistance from the Obama administration
- Lead the charge for the New York State Dream Act to help undocumented students attend college
Here are Bloomberg’s complete prepared remarks: