With the hallowed halls of academia as his setting, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a reimagining of the state’s education system as he unveiled his 2012-13 Executive Budget and Reform Plan at Queens College on Thursday, January 19.
“The future of our state depends on our public schools. A strong, effective school system is the hallmark of a healthy democracy,” he said. “We must make our schools accountable for the results they achieve and the dollars they spend.”
The governor has shown frustration over the failure of many school districts and the teacher’s union to come up with a new system of teacher evaluations in time for a deadline in federal grant money. In late December, the state’s education commissioner froze some of the state’s $700 million in Race to the Top grants, citing the state’s inability to comply with teacher evaluation requirements.
Cuomo said that any district unable to come up with an evaluation plan will not receive grant money.
“We cannot fail in our mission to reform public education, because we simply cannot fail our children,” he said, adding that he plans to increase school aid by $805 million, including $250 million linked to improved academic performance and management efficiency. “I will appoint a bipartisan education commission to work with the Legislature to recommend reforms in these key areas.”
Another area touched upon by the governor was the state’s current $2 billion budget deficit. Cuomo said his plan closes that deficit with no new taxes or new fees. It also proposes sweeping mandate relief and pension reform that will save taxpayers and local governments billions of dollars, while at the same time launching historic education reform to put students ahead of the education bureaucracy.
Additionally, Cuomo said his budget plan lays the groundwork for a $25 billion economic development agenda, funded largely by leveraging billions in private sector investment rather than by taxpayer dollars.
Two potential sources of revenue named by Cuomo during his speech were casino gaming and a proposed convention center that would be built by the developers of Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park.
Elected officials from across Queens attended the event, including Borough President Helen Marshall, who introduced the governor to his hometown crowd. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said that Queens College was the perfect setting for this event, given that education is the key to the borough’s future.
“I believe that job development is key to the state’s future, and higher education is the vehicle,” she said. “We are proud of Queens’ colleges, and it is appropriate that today Queens College is the epicenter.”