Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, January 2, 2015

Is Cuomo Coming For Teachers' Pensions?

In case you missed this not-so-subtle threat from Governor Cuomo during his second inauguration speech, here it is again:

Now we know Cuomo has already threatened to "break" what he termed the "public school monopoly" and has stated he believes more must be done to remove "bad teachers" from the system, so it's possible that the reference to teachers pensions in his statement is more a hit at Albany for not taking on teachers than anything else.

But I must say, that statement unnerved a lot of people on social media, and even as news broke that Governor Cuomo's father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, died yesterday, I still saw a lot of people retweeting and remarking on the Andrew Cuomo/teachers pensions attack from the second inauguration speech.

Ralph Ratto had a series of tweets, both before and after the Mario news, that sums up the reaction many teachers had to Andrew Cuomo's attack on teachers and their pensions yesterday:

I too heard the pension attack as a warning shot (see here) and I agree with all of the sentiments Ralph Ratto expressed in his tweets.

That said, Cuomo can't attack just teachers pensions without taking on the whole system, as Harris Lirtzman pointed out in this comment:

Yes, he/they really do hate teachers.

But, deep breath, neither Cuomo nor the Legislature can change one city pension plan without changing all of them--in terms of benefit contributions, vesting and retirement calculations. Nor do I believe they can change the requirements for NYSTRS and NYSLERS at the state level, separately.

Cuomo may look to do "pension reform" again, push for new "tiers," or try to do away with pensions for future workers altogether and go with some sort of 401(K) plan.

But coming off a less than convincing re-election victory where he outraised his opponent 9-1 and still won the fewest votes of any sitting governor seeking re-election in New York since FDR in 1930, with a full Legislature pissed off at him that he didn't make a deal to raise their pay for the first time since 1999 and an Assembly controlled by Democrats looking to pay him back for some of his spiteful treatment of them, does he really have the political muscle for pension reform?

I'm dubious that he does.

In fact, if the teachers unions would just buckle down and fight him on his education reform agenda instead of signaling that they're ready to cave on the charter cap and teacher evaluation revisions, I think Cuomo could be beaten on his entire agenda this time around.

He's at the weakest point of his governorship and his allies in the State Senate hold a slim majority (though it may be enhanced by the turncoat IDC Dems like Jeff Klein and Tony Avella) while Assembly Dems actually picked up seats last election.

In addition, his functionaries in the administration have been quitting at a rapid pace and he hasn't been able to replace them - he's going into the second term with the second and third string running things for him.

Less-than-impressive re-election numbers, a slim GOP majority in the State Senate, Assembly Dems pissed at him, and an administration running with second and third string figures at the helm - this is not the most promising environment for a governor to push something as heavy as pension reform.


  1. Pension reform can only come as a result of the next Constitutional Convention in NYS (2017). If Cuomo goes after pensions get ready for a term limits push in Albany to shut down ANY hope that members of the legislature can hold their jobs and collect pensions and health insurance until kingdom come. You'll see politicos on BOTH sides of the aisle go totally ape-shit over that! Personally, I don't think Cuomo has the guts to do it.

    In the meantime, there are great letters floating around Facebook to NYSUT leadership. Ladies and Gentlemen: It is time you realized that the "gauntlet" has been thrown and you better respond with the full might of 600,000 NYSUT members! Otherwise, your annual VOTE/COPE contributions will amount to nothing and NYSUT will fold like a straw house.

    Shame on Cuomo. We remember his father but the son is not even a shadow of the man his father was. It's time to wake up, NYSUT and fellow teacher colleagues!

  2. Maybe Cuomo won't be able to go after pensions directly but if he succeeds in pushing through his plan to rate more teachers ineffective based on faulty VAM scores, more teachers will be FIRED. The more teachers fired, the fewer pensions to be paid out. Same applies with extending number of years required before tenure decisions are made. Extend probation, discontinue more teachers ... lower pension costs.

    We can't focus on one issue and lose sight of all the other destructive policies. We need our union to stand strong and fight ALL of his attempts to destroy our profession.


  3. Nobody is saying he obvious . Strike! Take the next provocative statement he makes and use it. Authorize a strike. He'll see it as a challenge, follow through on whatever bullshit it is, and then we walk. Whole state. Then the headlines are ours. We pin the CCSS rollout in him, we say the double testing is unworkable, class soze too high. Evals are a sham, and we undo the whole fucking thing. One, solid. Strike. Statewide. We'd have teachers across the nation behind us. With this much populism bubbling in the electorate, I think even non teachers would start to take our side.

    1. I've commented on this before. Forget about NYSUT/UFT, All teachers have to contact their state legislators by themselves. They also need to encourage their adult family members living in NYS to call their legislators. Teachers have to make sure all those concerned know the gravity of the situation. If you are a veteran teacher and are fired by an even more punitive APPR., you will have a very difficult time finding another position.