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Cuomo Announces Plan to Reward State's Highest-Rated Teachers With Bonuses

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his State of the State address Wednesday a plan to reward the highest-rated teachers with big bonuses, a proposal that has many teachers taking sides, for and against. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Governor Andrew Cuomo finally has a new teacher evaluation system in place, after years of pushing, threatening, punishing and bargaining with school districts and unions, especially the city's school district and the city's union.

Now, Cuomo wants to put the new system to use by giving out rewards.

"Teachers who are rated highly effective on their evaluations, which is the highest statewide rank, would be eligible to receive $20,000 as a bonus," he said.

He called it the Teacher Excellence Fund, but, like many of the proposals unveiled in his State of the State speech, there are few details so far on how it would work. For instance, half of the teachers evaluated last year were rated highly effective.

Many educators are adamantly against any type of merit-based pay, seeing it as a threat to their public-sector unionized profession.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was selective in his praise for the plan.

"I believe it's appropriate for strategic reasons to give bonuses, for example, when we have teachers work in some schools that are really struggling, when we have teachers work in math and science, which are areas where we need more capacity in," he said. "I do not believe, for example, in merit pay, but I do believe in special bonusing for strategic goals."

The city experimented with teacher bonuses starting in 2007, but suspended them in 2010 after a study found that they had no effect on teachers' work or students' results.

The union had agreed to the program but only the bonuses were awarded to schools that performed well, with teachers dividing the money equally, each taking home about $1,500 after tax.

Under the governor's proposal, teachers would be rewarded individually, and the bonuses would be much more significant.

Even if the mayor and the union don't like the idea, they'd be under pressure to participate in a statewide bonus program. By opting out, the city would risk losing talented teachers to districts offering the rewards.

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