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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