Mayor Michael Bloomberg put a strong focus on education Thursday in his 11th State of the City address, riling some elected officials and the teachers union, but he also spoke out about the economy and new developments throughout the city. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
When it comes to teachers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing a carrot and stick approach. The carrots, outlined in his State of the City address on Thursday, include assisting teachers in paying off their student loans and handing out big raises to teachers rated "highly effective."
The stick is the ability to rid the system of bad teachers.
“This year we’ll do more to make sure every classroom has an effective teacher and to remove those who just don’t make the grade,” said Bloomberg.
Speaking at Gouverneur Morris High School in the Bronx, the mayor touted his administration's accomplishments in improving graduation rates and reducing crime in city schools.
But he said much more needs to be done, especially when it comes to attracting, rewarding and retaining top-notch educators.
"The education reforms we’ve pioneered over the past decade – no matter what the naysayers say – have been widely adopted by school systems across the nation, but this year we’ll be putting our foot on the gas and picking up the pace," said the mayor.
Bloomberg said he wants to retain the best educators by giving a $20,000 raise to those who are rated highly effective for two consecutive years.
As for teachers who don't make the grade at 33 struggling schools, the mayor wants to create "school-based committees'' to evaluate teachers.
It's a measure that would sidestep a dispute with the teachers union that is preventing the city from receiving $60 million in federal grants.
The mayor said he also wants to give parents more top-quality choices by opening 100 new schools over the next two years, including 50 charters.
Additionally, he wants to better prepare students for college and careers, and said more will be done to create internship opportunities using private-sector partnerships.
In response, the city's teachers union said in part, "The mayor knows perfectly well that under state law, these kinds of initiatives have to be negotiated with the union. If he's really interested in improving the schools his administration has mishandled, he will send his negotiators back to the table."
Meanwhile, Bloomberg also laid out his vision for improving the city's economy and creating jobs.
Bloomberg backed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s push to hike the state minimum wage. He voiced support for the New York State Dream Act, allowing children brought here illegally to apply for state loans and scholarships, and as expected, he’s renewing an effort to develop the Kingsbridge Armory, this time with backing from former critic Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“We’re putting aside our differences to do what’s best for the city and that’s what leadership is all about,” said Bloomberg.
The City Council rejected the first Kingsbridge Armory proposal because the developer couldn't guarantee workers would be paid at least $10 an hour plus benefits.
Bloomberg also announced another $25 million has been added to the city’s $87 million commitment to re-building the Hunts Point market.
Other economic projects outlined by Bloomberg include JetBlue's new headquarters in Long Island City, development of the Homeport on Staten Island, and continued efforts to revitalize Coney Island and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
As for how to pay for all these new initiatives, the mayor said it’ll be done by continuing to streamline and consolidate government operations, including the sale of three city-owned buildings in Lower Manhattan, which is expected to generate more than $100 million in revenue.
Among the buildings on the block is the Emigrant Savings Bank building, which recently served as temporary home to the City Council during City Hall renovations.
While Bloomberg was largely met with applause Thursday, a group of protesters outside the auditorium was less thrilled.
More than 40 people are facing disorderly conduct charges after being arrested outside of the address.
Some gathered to protest his educational policies, others to call attention to the city's efforts to remove houses of worship from public schools.
"We believe in equal treatment, we believe in equal access, and we believe in our constitutional right not to be discriminated against based on our faith," said one protester.
"We are here to let him know that the church is free and we want the best for our community and we want the best for our children," said Reverend Luce Hernandez.
Some 60 churches citywide have been given until February 12 to relocate out of the city schools they currently use for meetings.
However, some state lawmakers are pushing for legislation to prevent that from happening.