UFT Declares Victory In Budget Battle (Updated)
From the Morning Memo:
The United Federation of Teachers on Sunday night declared victory in an email to its members, writing that most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Draconian agenda” had been turned back by state lawmakers.
“Now all of our hard work is paying dividends,” the teachers union that represents mostly New York City teachers wrote in the email to members. “The governor’s Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities.”
In the email, the union pointed to a variety of changes in the final budget agreement that had been reached last night, including tweaks to school receivership that provide for some local control, altered tenure requirements for up to four years and an evaluation system that will use several metrics, including state tests, observation and local input.
Cuomo was not able to win his plan to lift the cap on charter schools by 100 — a proposal that may be tied later down the road to an extension on mayoral control for New York City schools.
Also gone from the final product: A $20,000 merit bonus proposal for high-performing teachers.
Updated: Contra UFT’s email, the administration says an appropriation for the bonus proposal was included in the final agreement.
The Cuomo administration sees the education battle’s outcome a bit differently. Merely having state lawmakers, especially the Democratic-led Assembly, actually agree to these changes is a huge step forward.
A senior administration official last night called the public education system across the “$50 billion industry” that is resistant to reform.
At the same time, the reforms agreed to in the budget framework represent one of the biggest shifts in education policy in the state’s history, the official said.
Still, in the early reporting there’s some disagreement over the extent of the changes: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie last night told reporters there is input from the Department of Education on helping develop teacher evaluation criteria.
The official last night said SED’s role in criteria development for evaluations was minimal, save for helping put together a second, optional test for school districts to use.
Nevertheless, the efforts by both UFT and the statewide New York State United Teachers made for a more complicated and difficult set of negotiations with the state Legislature and Cuomo.
The governor was accused of “demonizing teachers” with the proposed changes and local level union members were stirred into traveling to the Capitol to protest and contacting their Legislature.
The unions’ strength and influence was strongest in the Democratic-led Assembly, where lobbyists were a near-constant presence this weekend waiting for news on education budget.
UFT describes rank-and-file members’ impact this way:
“They blasted his agenda on social media; invited him to visit their classrooms to see for himself the impact of overcrowded classes and lack of supplies; spoke out at community education forums; called, faxed and sent postcards to their state legislators; and held actions at their schools that engaged the entire school community.”
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