- Last Updated: 5:05 AM, February 13, 2012
- Posted: 12:44 AM, February 13, 2012
It’s high noon this week in Albany as Gov. Cuomo, playing the role of sheriff, faces off with teachers-union leaders — the outlaws.
The two sides will confront each other over the governor’s claimed determination to force meaningful teacher-evaluation standards on New York schools.
Thursday is the deadline set by Cuomo to automatically amend the budget he presented to the Legislature last month with special language that could unilaterally impose teacher-evaluation requirements throughout the state.
Last month, Cuomo told union leaders — who have resisted the standards for nearly two years — that if they wanted to avoid his action, they must reach an agreement on new evaluation standards with city Department of Education and state education officials.
But as of yesterday, no agreement was in sight.
Top education officials have been repeatedly frustrated trying to reach a deal with union leaders, a process that was authorized by legislation under which New York received $700 million in federal Race to the Top funding.
The legislation, however, contained a “poison pill,’’ pushed by the teacher union-dominated, Democratic Party-controlled Assembly, which is widely seen as having encouraged union resistance to a deal.
If Cuomo waits past Thursday to amend his budget plan, the Legislature could refuse to accept the change.
That would thereby kill the evaluation system — a move all but certain in the Assembly, where Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) is a top ally to teachers unions.
“The governor realizes that there is profound importance to the state and to his tenure in office in this confrontation with the teachers union,’’ said a Cuomo administration source.
“This is not just about teacher evaluations and improving the schools. It’s about who really is in charge in Albany, a popular governor trying to do what the public wants, or a teachers union and other special interests who have for so long controlled the Legislature,’’ the administration source continued.
A Siena College poll last week found that 71 percent of voters back Cuomo’s education-reform effort.
Mayor Bloomberg didn’t help himself with some important state officials last week when he claimed that runaway cost overruns “always’’ occur on public projects.
Bloomberg, responding to the latest revelations of runaway Port Authority spending on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, said, “That’s just part of the way the world works, and I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with it.’’
Commented one senior official, “Bloomberg seems to be saying that the whole process is dishonest, that competitive bidding on costs don’t mean anything and that governments just routinely lie to the public.”
Bloomberg’s claim could be used to undermine Cuomo’s efforts to convince lawmakers and the public to support a new, $5 billion-plus Tappan Zee Bridge project and $4 billion convention center at Aqueduct, although the latter project is supposed to be privately financed.