Friday, April 14, 2017

NY Governor Cuomo Weak on Public Education by Bernard Gassaway

Andrew M. Cuomo has had nearly two terms as governor to significantly improve public education in New York. He has failed to use his bully pulpit to promulgate policies to improve student outcomes. New York’s average student performance for reading and mathematics remains less than 50% proficiency.

While Cuomo is articulate in his criticism of failing schools, and what is needed to improve them, he has not acknowledged his inability to be a change agent for public education.

Below are education-related excerpts from Cuomo’s seven State of the State addresses, from 2011 to 2017. Note that his education agendas have focused on higher education, early childhood education, funding, failing schools, charter schools, technology, teacher training and evaluation.

“Higher education will be the key economic driver. We look to partner with our great SUNY system, especially across upstate New York in making this a reality. They will provide both intergovernmental and intra-governmental coordination and be one-stop shops.”

“We need a meaningful teacher evaluation system.”

“We need better teachers. Teaching is one of the most important professions in society. We must attract and incentivize the best to become teachers. We need to overhaul the teacher training and certification process, increase admission standards, and we should implement a bar exam type test that every teacher takes and must pass before we put them in a classroom to teach our students.”

“The next step now in our journey is to reinvent our classrooms with new technology. We must transform our classrooms from the classrooms of yesterday to the classrooms of tomorrow.”

 “We are proposing that we will pay full tuition for SUNY or CUNY for top graduates if they commit to going to teach in New York schools for five years. And we will create a residency program to give teachers early training just the way we do with doctors.”

“…We have committed $1.5 billion to phase-in full day Pre-K for four year olds and we are excited about that. We’ll invest another $365 million this year in Pre-K for four year olds but we also want to take the next step and start designing programs – not for four year olds – but for three year olds.”

“To ensure that charter schools are serving all of the public, we will propose an innovative anti-creaming legislation to ensure charters are teaching their fair share of high needs populations, English language, learning disabled and free lunch so no one can say that the charter schools aren’t taking the same cross-section of public students that the public schools have.”
“Let’s dedicate $100 million to transform every failing school in New York into a comprehensive, holistic, full-service community school and change the basic education system in this state and stop the cycle of incarceration in this state and paying for problems, rather than stopping the problems at an early age.”

“I am proposing tuition free college at our SUNY and CUNY schools and our community colleges for students or families making up to $125,000.”


When it comes to education, it is clear that Cuomo lacks either the authority or influence to significantly improve education outcomes for public school children in New York. While Cuomo should be given credit for saying the right things, he fails to earn credit for doing the right thing when it comes to education. This is unfortunate because as a state, we have too much to lose.  As Cuomo stated in 2012, “The future of our state depends on our public schools. A strong, effective school system is the hallmark of a healthy democracy.”