ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York’s Legislature approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s bill limiting the release of teacher evaluations only to parents and not to the public. It is an outcome seen as a major victory for teachers unions.
The Senate approved the measure 58 to 1. Soon after, the Assembly passed it 118 to 17.
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Many lawmakers criticized the bill, saying it was unfair to teachers, but they said the bill was better than allowing broader release of their evaluations. Once Cuomo signs the law, a teacher’s evaluation will be released only to the parents and guardians of students in their class.
“The intention of this bill is to avoid media exploitation,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Rockland County Democrat who sponsored the bill. She explained the state committed to evaluations and some disclosure when it applied for and accepted more than $700 million in federal funds last year under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition to improve instruction.
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She said that under a recent court decision forced by a New York Post lawsuit, teacher evaluations would start to be available beginning Aug. 15 to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act unless Cuomo’s bill was enacted.
It’s a big win for teachers unions across the state and in New York City, reported WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.
“Finding the balance between students’ needs, parents’ rights, and teachers’ rights is what this bill does,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told Lamb. “It allows us to move forward so that we can make sure that what happened earlier this year in New York City where teachers were wrongly vilified for the tabloids will never happen again.”
He said one teacher who was labeled the worst teacher in New York City had volunteered to teach a special ed class of immigrant non-English speaking children and was criticized for their low standardized test scores.
But many of those in support said they were cornered into voting for a bill from Cuomo because the alternative — full disclosure — would be worse for teachers.
“It just seems like we have the torches and the pitchforks out and we’re going after teachers,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Greene County Republican and husband of a teacher. “I think in hindsight we should have told the feds to keep the $700 million — we’re branding these teachers.”
Supporters defended the bill as part of improving education, which Cuomo said costs New York more than most states while getting only middle-range results.
“I believe the shakeup of education in New York state is a good thing and long overdue,” said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, a Suffolk County Republican. “As a property tax payer on Long Island, I am tired of the shakedown I experience each and every year from the education system.”
Other also argued for the accountability of disclosure.
“Data is now a fact of our lives,” said Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat. “And, yes, let’s not sell our parents short: They have a right know.”
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