Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday outlined the penultimate chapter of his three-term mayoralty, hitting on the twin themes that have been the most salient of his decade-long tenure: education and development.
Delivering his State of the City address at Morris High School in the Bronx, Bloomberg returned to the school reform platform he embraced nine years ago when he called for mayoral control of the system and began the arduous and controversial battle to improve city schools.
The mayor, who has doubled city spending on education, proposed a $20,000 salary boost for top teachers and excoriated the United Federation of Teachers for holding up the creation of the needed teacher evaluation system. That delay has cost the city millions of dollars in federal funds and has become an area of common concern for Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has blamed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and teachers unions.
“We're not going to wait around while ineffective teachers remain in those schools,” Bloomberg said. “Period.”
The administration said it would move ahead without the union to begin evaluating teachers and replace up to 50 percent of the faculty at 33 schools that lost grant money because the system was not in place last year. Bloomberg said he believed the move was “consistent with a provision of the existing union contract.”
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew strongly disagreed.
“The mayor seems to be lost in his own fantasy world of education, the one where reality doesn't apply,” Mulgrew said. “It doesn't do the kids and the schools any good for him to propose the kind of teacher merit pay system that has failed in school districts around the country.”
Mulgrew said state law requires such initiatives to be negotiated with the union.
Bloomberg doubled-down on his commitment to charter schools, vowing that half of the 100 new schools the city planned to open this year would be publicly financed but privately run. He asked charter companies KIPP Academy and Success Academy Charter Schools, run by the outspoken former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, to expedite their expansion plans.
Standing under a banner that read “Capital of Innovation,” Bloomberg signaled that he would continue to plant the seeds that could grow the city's high-tech sector by remaking several high schools in the image of the future Cornell University applied science campus on Roosevelt Island.
He announced plans to open an additional three six-year high schools like one in the Bronx that focuses on computer science. Graduates leave with a Regents diploma and associate's degree, with a shot of a job at IBM. A software engineering academy will open near Union Square.
“It's a whole new way of thinking about secondary school based on today's economic realities,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg's tech campus plan was the administration's major accomplishment in 2011, and the mayor was happy to revisit it. He also touted his forthcoming “five-borough taxi service.”
Looking ahead, the mayor laid out his latest development coup: the redevelopment of the hulking, vacant Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, for which the administration issued a request for proposals from developers Thursday.
An earlier plan was defeated in 2009 because the mayor lost a battle to require employers at the site to pay a living wage.
While Bloomberg opposes a living-wage bill in the City Council, he did acknowledge the growing concern over income inequality and the struggle for people to pay for the basics. He said he'd support Silver's proposal to raise the minimum wage.
“But there's one thing that, in all fairness, hasn't gone up: the ability of those at the bottom of the economic ladder to pay for those essential needs.”