Who Is In Charge
Mulgrew on Cuomo’s proposals: ‘It’s back to blame everything on the teachers’
The city teachers union president said watching Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveil a host of education policy proposals on Wednesday felt like going back in time.
“Look, there were certain things I liked — the tuition credit,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said after the speech, referring to Cuomo’s proposal to pay the tuition of top students at SUNY and CUNY who commit to teaching in New York for five years.
“At the same time, you want to recruit teachers to work in the hardest schools in the state, and then you say, if you go there, we’re going to take them over and throw you out,” he added, referring to Cuomo’s proposal to put low-performing schools under the control of “receivers” and override union contracts in order to replace teachers. “It’s back to blame everything on the teachers.”
Many of Cuomo’s education proposals — including adding to the state’s charter-school cap, reducing local input into teacher evaluations, and allowing struggling schools to circumvent labor agreements — represent attacks on core union issues.
In recent weeks, the city and state unions and advocacy groups like the Alliance for Quality Education have kept their focus on calling for additional funding for school districts. They say more funding for districts with concentrations of high-needs students, not new accountability measures, are what’s needed.
“The truth is, there’s no epidemic of failing schools or bad teachers,” New York State United Teachers President Karen McGee said in a statement. “There is an epidemic of poverty and under-funding that Albany has failed to adequately address for decades.”
Cuomo offered an additional $1.1 billion, or half of the state union’s recent request, in exchange for his package of reforms.
The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.
Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.
The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.
Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.
Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.
Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.
Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.
In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.
But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.
In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.
“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”
That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.
Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.
“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.
During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.
Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.
“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”