New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is running for re-election, has angered teachers, parents and education activists by telling the New York Daily News editorial board that he views the K-12 public education system as a “monopoly” and that teachers are opposed to be evaluated.
According to this story in the Daily News, Cuomo said that if he is re-elected, he would work hard to bust up “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” he said, referring to public education, and said that he likes charter schools because they introduce competition into the K-12 education world. He also said he wants to change teacher evaluation systems to increase more incentives and more sanctions in order to “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.” He was quoted as saying:
“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”
And he said:
“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it. I feel exactly opposite.”
Predictably, educators and parents were furious at the governor’s comments. Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a community-based organization that supports high-quality public education, said in a statement:
“Gov. Cuomo has laid clear plans to expand his frontal assault on our public schools through high stakes testing, starving our public schools and privatization. It’s not that shocking when you look at the enormous pile of cash he has raked in from the Wall Street billionaires who are investing in charter schools. He is rewarding his financial backers at a devastating cost to our children.”
The New York State United Teachers union President Karen Magee issued a statement saying:
“Public education is for the public good. It is not a monopoly. It is the centerpiece of our democracy and what makes our nation great. Reclaiming the promise of public education should be our singular focus. The governor’s comments are an unfortunate distraction from the serious conversation we must have in this state about addressing poverty, funding and real solutions that ensure that every child receives fair and equal to a high quality education.”
What Cuomo is expressing is a common refrain made by education reformers that teachers resist evaluation systems that link pay and jobs to student standardized test scores because they don’t want to be evaluated. While surely there are some teachers who would like to coast, the vast majority of teachers go into the profession because they want to teach young people and would prefer to improve through quality, fair evaluations. There are school districts that have effective teacher evaluation systems that don’t use standardized test scores but reformers aren’t interested in using them as models.
In his rhetoric about public education as a monopoly, Cuomo sounds somewhat like former Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a national reform leader who refers to public schools as “government-run monopolies run by unions.” Cuomo’s notion that charter schools provide “competition” to traditional public schools, a position that assumes charter schools are better than traditional public schools, which is true for some but not most charters. Furthermore, the notion is based on a market-based view of public institution which supposes that the public education system can be run as a business as opposed to as a civic institution, which is what it is.
Two years ago, Cuomo successfully backed a new evaluation system that ties student scores on Common Core tests to teacher evaluations. The method through which this link is made has been attacked by evaluation experts, including the American Statistical Association, as being invalid and unreliable, but Cuomo, like other reformers, are wedded to it anyway.
He has also been a strong supporter of privately run charter schools, earlier this year effectively steamrolling the Democratic mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, by siding with the operator of a charter network. Anybody who watched Cuomo do that shouldn’t be all that surprised at his latest comments.