The Governor, the Mayor, and the City’s Schools

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Photo: Chris Hondros/2010 Getty Images

Meanwhile, in political news from the other 49 states: Andrew Cuomo delivers his second State of the State speech this afternoon and it will be packed with important subjects, from gambling to fracking to pensions. Of particular significance to the city’s future, though, will be what the governor says, and doesn’t, about public schools.

There are an increasing number of signs that Cuomo, riding high in popularity, wants to assert himself on the education front. Today he’s expected to propose a commission to study New York’s “standards” and to increase the “accountability” of school districts across the state. On Saturday, he issued a statement saying he’s “disappointed” that the city and the United Federation of Teachers couldn’t agree on a new method to evaluate teacher performance, thus costing the schools millions in federal aid. Which all sounds well-intentioned and on-target. But one year ago Cuomo and the UFT were very helpful to one another: The governor effectively killed Mayor Bloomberg’s push to end layoff-by-seniority rules and the union didn’t protest Cuomo’s budget cuts too loudly.

This time around, though, the UFT has stalled the teacher evaluation deal for months, and on Monday, the UFT’s president, Michael Mulgrew, gave an interview to YNN’s Liz Benjamin in which he eagerly invited Cuomo to intervene in the dispute. Hmmm. Bloomberg’s reforms have been far from perfect, but the major improvements in public education over the past decade wouldn’t have been possible without mayoral control; how teachers are hired, fired, trained, and deployed is at the core of the concept. The 2013 contenders for City Hall should want to preserve that power in case they win the job, but they’ll be tempted to trade pieces of it for the UFT’s election endorsement.

The union isn’t waiting for that campaign. They're trying to get the governor to nibble away at mayoral control now. Cuomo and Bloomberg have battled plenty, over everything from taxes to taxis, but here’s a chance for them to work together, on behalf of the city’s students. The governor resisted overreaching politically during his first year. Today, we’ll start seeing what Cuomo learned from that success.