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Bloomberg Challenges Teachers’ Unions In State Of The City Speech

Bloomberg Challenges Teachers’ Unions In State Of The City Speech
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When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg delivered his first State of the City address in 2002, he promised to rebuild Lower Manhattan, but he also spoke at length about the city’s much-maligned school system.

Every year since then, New York’s mayor has made education a central focus of his State of the City speech.

Speaking last Thursday, Bloomberg devoted most of his 11th and penultimate State of the City address to the cause of education, presumably wanting this to be part of his legacy. Specifically, the mayor proposed a merit-pay system that would award top performers with $20,000 raises, and he threatened to remove as many as half of teachers working in dozens of struggling schools.

“We Have Only Climbed Halfway Up The Mountain”

From The New York Times:

Mr. Bloomberg vowed to double down on his longstanding efforts to revive the city’s long-struggling schools, saying, “We have to be honest with ourselves: we have only climbed halfway up the mountain, and halfway isn’t good enough.”

“We cannot accept failing schools,” he added during an unusually forceful one-hour speech at the Morris Educational Campus in the Bronx. “And we cannot accept excuses for inaction or delay.”

Mr. Bloomberg said he would take several steps to circumvent obstacles to his proposals posed by city labor unions. He pointedly referred to the United Federation of Teachers numerous times and seemed to relish diving into some of the most controversial subjects in the education world, including merit pay, teacher evaluations and a large increase in charter schools.

But in an indication of how difficult the fight will be, the union’s president, Michael Mulgrew, conspicuously declined to applaud during education-related moments of the speech and declared afterward that the mayor was living in a “fantasy education world,” proposing ideas that he did not have the power to put into effect.

Does Merit Pay Work?

Many districts have tried over the last decade to experiment with performance pay systems but most have failed, partly due to powerful teachers’ unions that negotiated the traditional pay structures.

Washington DC is the leader among a handful of large cities that are working to implement a performance pay system. Alongside the aggressive new evaluation system that has made the city famous for firing poor-performing teachers — more than 400 over the past two years — is a bonus-and-raise structure aimed at luring talented people to the profession and persuading the most effective to stick with it.

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66 comments

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6:14PM PST on Feb 2, 2012

Yes the man sure has bad sides!

1:19AM PST on Jan 20, 2012

"he threatened to remove as many as half of teachers working in dozens of struggling schools."

Ah yes. That'll help.

6:00PM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Unions are good for working people.

4:42PM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Why do people keep voting this man into office????

5:03AM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Local school politics and intrigue will work its way in to favor those who are "favored". Want a raise, well just....for me. This is why civil service was instituted. We will have little shcoolhouse "Boss Tweeds".

1:57PM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Linda B. , I find it so sad that people like you have been conditioned to believe that unions are the bad guys. I do agree that unions have been polluted to a point and that pollution needs to be cleansed but unions are necessary if the rights of the workers are to be protected so get the unions to clean up their act but do NOT try to get rid of them. In fact if I wanted to get rid of something I would infatuate it and give it a bad public image.


The BEST school system in the WORLD has a STRONG teachers union, do the research.

11:43AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Let me get his straight it's OK for a CEO of a FAILING company to get millions but not a good teacher????? Teachers mold our children and greatly influence the future.

11:37AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Unions are good for working people.

11:31AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Our teachers are phenomenal. Anyone who has ever been in school or have children in school knows the difficult challenges teachers face every day. Fix the parents, fix the school boards, fix the schools, fix the class size, and give teachers help.

11:21AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Bob M. Well said! Thank you

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