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Speaker Heastie to teachers: ‘We’re in a very, very tough situation’

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, speaking at a press conference in 2012 held by  the Alliance for Quality Education.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, speaking at a press conference in 2012 held by the Alliance for Quality Education.
NYSUT

Newly minted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told city teachers gathered in Albany on Wednesday that he was prepared to be their advocate in upcoming budget negotiations.

“I know that we’re in a very, very tough situation with a governor who wants reforms,” Heastie said, explaining that he has tried to remind Gov. Andrew Cuomo “of the difficult situations that teachers face.”

The remarks were some of Heastie’s first about Cuomo’s education agenda before the teachers union, which bitterly opposes Cuomo’s plan to toughen teacher evaluations, raise the cap on charter schools in the city, and take over struggling schools.

“While this is my first time addressing you as the new speaker of the assembly,” he said, “this is not the first time nor the last time that I will join you in calling for the support and investment that our students need to succeed.”

Then he said he was going to speak off-the-cuff for a moment, and suggested that he has reservations about two of Cuomo’s most contested proposals: tying teacher evaluations more closely to student test scores, and letting outside groups take over struggling schools.

“There are other factors that should be considered when you look at why schools don’t perform,” he said, noting that some students face serious problems outside of school. “To me, it is unfair to blame teachers.”

After the talk, Mulgrew said he expects the new speaker and the Assembly’s Democratic majority to back the union in opposing Cuomo’s agenda.

“Carl really understands education,” he said. “And his conference is very, very upset about the governor’s proposals on education.”

Listen to his remarks in full here:

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