Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed incentives, including merit pay, so the city can retain and recruit the best teachers during his State of the City address last Thursday in the Bronx.
The mayor also called on the state to pass minimum wage legislation so the pay is higher than federal standards.
“The single most important factor in a student’s progress is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher and we are going to find new ways to attract, reward and retain great teachers,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg said the burden of paying back student loans from top colleges sometimes causes those interested in teaching not to consider it as a career choice.
“But we need their talents in our classrooms,” the mayor said. “Our kids need them.”
Bloomberg proposed having the city pay off up to $25,000 in student loans from anyone who finishes in the top tier of his or her college class and wants to be a teacher.
“Our teachers deserve that and so do our children,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg also wants the city to offer top teachers a $20,000-a-year raise if they are rated highly for two consecutive years.
Any of the mayor’s suggestions outlined in the State of the City would need to be approved by the powerful United Federation of Teachers.
“Historically, teachers unions around the country have opposed rewarding great teaching through merit pay, but more and more teachers are asking, ‘Why?’ and we’ve seen how well this can work in other cities,” Bloomberg said.
The mayor said the city would back state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s (D-Manhattan) proposal to raise the minimum wage in the state above the federal standard.
“Our city just cannot afford to wait for Washington,” Bloomberg said. “Not when it comes to illegal guns, not when it comes to climate change, not when it comes to creating jobs and not when it comes to raising the minimum wage.”
City Comptroller John Liu said it was “great to hear” Bloomberg talk about bumping up the minimum wage and said increasing it “would help eliminate the increasing income gap that New York has experienced in recent years.”
On immigration, Bloomberg said the city will “help lead the charge” for the New York State Dream Act, legislation modeled after a federal bill that would allow children who were brought to the country illegally to apply for state-sponsored college loans, grants and scholarships.
“We can’t blame them for being brought here as infants or teens,” the mayor said. “And since they are here to stay, it’s in New York City’s best interest to make sure they are able to become productive members of society.”
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) praised Bloomberg for endorsing the state legislation.
“It is imperative that we work toward equal educational opportunities for all New Yorkers and to remove roadblocks that stand between youth and a productive future in this city and state,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2012 Community News Group
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