As he seeks changes to the state’s education system through a new teacher evaluation law and a strengthening of charter schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday in Rochester said he respects teachers and their work.

“I fully respect teachers,” Cuomo said today. “I love teachers. I think it’s a beautiful profession. My mother was a school teacher, so I have a deep respect for the profession. I also believe the focus of this entire education system should be the student. I respect the teachers union and what they do.”

But as he pushes back against the caricature that he’s anti-teacher, Cuomo also called the state’s teachers union one of the most politically potent forces in the state that is resistant to change.

“You know the strongest political force in the state of New York? The teacher’s union,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s $142 billion budget would increase education spending by as much as $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent over last year. Much of that increase, however, is tied to enacting the governor’s education measures.

Cuomo wants to raise the cap on charter schools statewide by 100, increase per pupil tuition aid at charters and slow teacher tenure, which would be tied to a revamped teacher evaluation law.

The governor is also embracing a tax credit geared toward spurring donations to public and private schools, a move opposed by teachers unions.

Both the New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers are airing ads blasting Cuomo’s education proposals, which they have framed as being anti-teacher.

At the same time, teachers unions have pointed to Cuomo’s support from wealthy donors who are supporters of charter schools.

“The teachers union has given me a little grief,” Cuomo said. “They don’t like the teacher evaluation system, they don’t like removing bad teachers.”

Cuomo in recent days has sought to characterize his education proposals as being supportive of teachers, with an emphasis on a teacher training program as well as providing a $20,000 bonus to teachers who receive good performance reviews over several years.

Support for the union is perhaps greatest in the Democratic-led Assembly, a chamber which just went through the upheaval of electing a new speaker, Carl Heastie of the Bronx.

In the Senate, now fully controlled by Republicans, the union opposed GOP efforts to gain full control of the chamber last year, while deep-pocketed backers of charter schools and education reform provided a counterweight through well-funded independent expenditure committees.