In his budget presentation on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a plan that would withhold a four percent increase in school aid for districts that fail to implement a teacher performance evaluation system. Districts would then have until next January to put a system in place or risk losing out on the funds.
Of course, the budget amendment would have to be approved by the State Legislature, which could be a telling sign of how much influence the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the New York State United Teachers have over state lawmakers.
All eyes will likely be on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a well-known supporter of unions who would have the power to hold up the state budget if he decides to oppose the evaluation proposal.
Of all of the big issues that Cuomo has tackled during his short time in office, this is the biggest.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has always wanted part of his legacy to be an overhaul of the city school system, has been trying to implement a teacher evaluation system for years. He made education reform a big part of his recent State of the City address, taking several pointed swipes at the UFT's protection of underperforming teachers.
And to the mayor's credit, his administration was close to striking a deal on evaluations with the UFT, but it fell through when the UFT demanded that teacher appeals be handled by an independent arbitrator. Under the Department of Education's plan, appeals would be heard by the schools chancellor.
But now it looks like it will be Cuomo who finally gets the job done.
An evaluation system for teachers is looking more and more inevitable. Hopefully such a proposal will not only weed out bad educators, but also reward those who are admirably serving our kids to keep them motivated and excited about their profession.
And if Cuomo's plan works, it will also keep the state on track to receive more than $700 million in federal Race to the Top education funds, which will only be awarded if the state implements a teacher evaluation system.
Credit has to be given to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who for years has kept the spotlight on the city's school system and improving education, but it's has to stick in his craw – at least just a little bit - that there might finally be meaningful movement on an evaluation system thanks to Cuomo.