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New York City Mayor Bloomberg Calls for Investment, Reform in Education

By Kathy Wiggins
January 30, 2012

Education reform has reached a critical juncture in New York and all around the country, according to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "It really is astounding how little is being said about our schools on the campaign trail, because everyone knows it is a top concern it is a top concern for parents, and it is a top concern for students. It has to be a top concern for those of us who don't have students going to school because it affects the country's future in some very profound ways," he said at the closing plenary session of the Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting on January 20. "

"There is no doubt that if we're going to remain the world's economic super power we have to stop taking our success for granted. As the global economy continues to move to one driven by knowledge and ideas, we have to move with it. In fact, we have to LEAD that change. And we simply cannot do that without outstanding public schools."

Mayors and governors around the country have led the charge for reform, overhauling dysfunctional school governance structures, increasing the number of charter schools, helping parents get more information about schools, and holding schools accountable for success. "School choice is an important way to hold schools accountable for success. But we all know that we have an enormous way still to go, and the work is going to get harder," he said.

Over the past decade, thanks to the leadership of many mayors, including Bloomberg and others, the number of students in charter schools has tripled. "School choice is an important way to hold schools accountable for success, because when people vote with their feet, you know that it's real, and it's pretty obvious which direction they are going." Despite this progress, according to Bloomberg, work to turn around broken school systems is only going to get harder.

All around the country, the most promising and successful education reforms are under attack by ideologues on both the right and the left. "The right will never accept anything with the word national in it, and the right will never accept anything with the word testing in it," said Bloomberg.

"Education is a local issue, and localities should have flexibility in running their schools, but we can still have national standards that hold everyone accountable for success and let us see where we stand. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it," he said. Bloomberg asserts that common core standards move us closer to that goal, and calls for nationwide adoption.

"The only way to reform public education is to transform our education system into one of excellence, and put the needs of the students first," he continued. "We need an effective teacher evaluation system, need to help the teachers that need help, and get those who can't perform in the classroom and help our students moved out."

All the best research tells us that the single most important fact affecting a student's progress is the effectiveness of the teacher. "Great teachers make an enormous difference and they need to lead the way we need to do more to recruit, reward and retain great teachers and replace ineffective ones," said Bloomberg. "Mayors are pragmatists and problem'solvers, not ideologues we need to lead the charge to institute merit pay for quality teachers. I can't think of any better investment we can make."

In closing, Bloomberg charged the mayors to act. "We're all in this together. Just as we have seen on many issues, when mayors stand together and speak together we can make an enormous difference. If we stand together on education reform, we can make sure our kids nationwide get the education they need to keep the American dream alive, in this new century and beyond."