New York governor riles unionists by demanding the ‘death penalty’ for failing schools

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ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is standing by his recent comment that chronically failing schools should be given the “death penalty,” despite charges from the state’s teacher unions that such “inflammatory” rhetoric is disrespectful to educators, students and parents.

Cuomo 2Cuomo, a Democrat, made the comment in the wake of news reports that the vast majority of New York students performed very poorly on the new, Common Core-aligned state assessments.

Cuomo believes the new tests do a fair job of determining the quality of each New York school, and suggested it’s finally time to do something “dramatic” to turn around the most dysfunctional schools, reports Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio.

“Whether it is a takeover by the state, or mayoral control or takeover by a charter school, there’s going to have to be a death penalty for failing schools, so to speak, where we say, ‘The children come first, before the bureaucracy, and if the school fails, the school has to end,’” Cuomo said last week.

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi and American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten issued a joint statement earlier this week warning the governor “to avoid inflammatory language that does nothing to address the needs of New York’s most vulnerable students.”

The union leaders proceeded to call for “a war on poverty and inequality,” and called for dysfunctional schools to be fixed, not closed, reports

While Cuomo seems to agree that schools in poor communities need to offer more “services” than those in wealthy communities, he doesn’t appear to favor throwing more money at public schools. During his “death penalty” comments, the governor said New Yorkers already pay very high taxes, mostly to fund public education.

“We spend more money on education than any other state,” Cuomo said, according to New York State Public Radio. “The schools, theoretically, should be some of the best in the country.”

In a more recent interview with The Buffalo News editorial board, Cuomo said he will introduce specific reforms in his State of the State address in January.

“The basic point is, you can’t continue doing what you’re doing,” he told the paper. “It’s not working, and madness is allowing the current situation to continue.”


By Ben Velderman at

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