As Commissioner King was introduced to the 1600 teacher delegates at the NYSUT Convention a few hundred teachers stood up, turned their backs and walked out of the auditorium.
The Commissioner is looked upon as an enemy, not a partner.
The tradition of NYS Commissioners of Education addressing the annual state teacher union (NYSUT) convention and answering questions from the audience is decades old. Rick Mills was tedious, aka, boring. David Steiner was frank and charming.
Commissioners and the union have always had an amicable relationship, an unspoken covenant that regardless of the disagreements both sides would work together.
The covenant is shattered.
In the spring of 2010 after months of negotiations Commissioner Steiner, NYSUT President Ianuzzi and UFT President Mulgrew agreed on a new teacher evaluation plan: 20% based on student scores on state exams and 80% negotiated between the local union and the school district and approved by the state. Last year a broad-based task force spent six months hammering out regulations to flesh out the law.
Without enthusiasm, the unions agreed to final regulations; days before the regulations were adopted by the Regents the Commissioner dramatically changed the proposal. With three dissenting votes (Cashin, Rosa and Tilles) the Regents approved the regs and the union challenged the regs in court.
The court sustained the union.
After the Governor intervened a compromise was reached. In New York City, for the first time, teachers who received an unsatisfactory rating would receive an external review.
Teachers and principals around the state were livid and Commissioner King became the subject of their ire. Carole Burris, a principal on Long Island crafted a highly critical letter, signed by a quarter of the principals in the state.
At the NYSUT Convention Vice President Maria Niera vigorously attacked the Commissioner,
“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Neira shouted out.
“The tax cap is also an assault on democracy, as a 60-percent super majority is now required to exceed the cap. The new pension tier is an assault on future generations that undermines their retirement security.”
“What would you call a governor,” Pallotta asked delegates, “who imposes the largest school-aid cut in the history of New York, imposes the most destructive tax cap law in the nation and who reduces the pensions of public employees?
“Well, it ain’t pro-labor!” he said to a spirited response from the crowd.
After the delegates walked out the Commissioner answered questions from the audience for a half hour – for King, a really, really long half hour.
Read the questions and King’s answers here, and, if you choose, send in your own question.
Can the relationship be rebuilt?
How did the King-NYSUT relationship deteriorate so quickly? And, can it be repaired?
Is King the culprit, or, is he just “carrying water” for the Governor?
The key to rebuilding the relationship is the Regents – the seventeen member policy board led by Merryl Tisch.
The Regents must lead – they have responsibility to heal the breech between the Commissioner, teachers and principals in the 4000 schools around the state.
We do know that if the relationship is not repaired the heart and core of the administration’s education program, the teacher evaluation plan, will eventually crash. You cannot impose a plan that is anathema to the core element of the plan: teachers and principals.
Sean Corcoran, a highly regarded NYU professor has been highly critical of the value-added model: it cannot accurately measure the predicted impact of teachers, (see article here)
It’s time for leadership.