Bloomberg's damaging education proposals to cost $350 million per year

There's horrific news in today's Daily News: that NY State Education Commissioner King is likely to approve the mayor's proposal to fire half of all of  teachers at 33 struggling schools:"That's a pretty aggressive teacher evaluation system,” the state insider said. “We believe the switch meets all the federal requirements.”

Firing a fixed and arbitrary quota of  at least half of all teachers, regardless of their ability, is not a real teacher evaluation system; it's a meat cleaver approach. This proposal reveals Bloomberg's phony hypocrisy and any supporter who  claims to care about the importance of "teacher quality."

Moreover, the city is supposedly intent on pushing through this plan so they can get $60M in federal School Improvement Grants, but as more than 1700 teachers are involved, this will likely double the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and cost the city more than $100M, according to the Daily News.

And the mayor's pointless proposal for merit pay  -- to give $20,000 raises to those teachers rated "highly effective" -- which  has not worked anywhere it has been tried , including NYC, to improve student outcomes?  The Daily News estimates this would cost about $250M per year, for a total of $350M.

In contrast, DOE estimated in 2009 that it would cost about the same amount ($358 million) to reduce average class sizes across the system to the state-mandated goals of 20 students per class in K-3; 23 in 4-8 grade and 25 in HS.  Instead, class sizes have increased every year for the last four.

If they do manage to fund these new proposals, with a static overall education budget, this would probably require even more cuts in staffing, which will mean even larger classes in the future. In contrast, class size reduction is a program that has been proven to work through rigorous evidence, according to the federal government, and is the highest priority of NYC parents every year in the DOE's own surveys, but no; Bloomberg and his cronies would rather scapegoat teachers, fire as many as possible, and waste taxpayer money on policies that have been proven to fail. 

Meanwhile, the NY Times runs an editorial approving the mayor's  proposals, the link to which Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted to Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, Patrick Sullivan and me last night.  (Way to go, Howard! Glad you're thinking of us  at 11:26 PM on a Friday night!)

The Times opines that the UFT "should meet Mr. Bloomberg’s challenge to help create a fair system for evaluating teachers to be used in providing extra pay as well as to claim more than $60 million in federal education funds that depend on having an evaluation plan in place."

I agree that would be a good goal. Only the mayor doesn't want a fair teacher evaluation system, he wants one that is based solely upon the views of principals  -- with no possible appeal to a more objective party, despite the fact that many NYC principals have been found to base their teacher ratings upon personal grudges and worse, and yet been kept on the job by DOE.

Moreover, built into the NYC school funding system is a poison pill called "fair student funding," which means that principals have to pay the full salaries of their teachers out of their individual school budgets,  which acts as a built-in incentive for them to fire experienced teachers to save money, especially as  budgets have been cut back harshly -- by about 14% -- over the last several years.

Our only hope is that these blustering and wasteful ideas will bite the dust, which has occurred to many of  Bloomberg's proposals in previous State of the City addresses  As the scorecard of New York Times reporter Fernanda Santos' reveals, very few of his promises have come to pass.

For example, in 2005, while running for re-election, Bloomberg promised to reduce class size in grades K-3 (which are now the largest in 11 years), and to "eliminate all pockets of overcrowding" in schools (last year there were waiting lists in one fourth of all elementary schools.) Other proposals, like increasing parent involvement while wreaking scorn upon them and disempowering them in every way imaginable, have died a similar, lonely death.  Let's hope a similar fate meets his latest, most reckless and wasteful education ideas ever.
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