An Advocate for Students

Governor Cuomo has assigned himself a new task, that of chief lobbyist and advocate for the state’s public school children. Good luck, Governor. If you’re serious about the new assignment—and we hope you are—you have lots of work ahead of you.

As Mr. Cuomo noted himself, there is no shortage of lobbyists seeking to influence the state’s educational policy. The teachers’ union, most notably, has plenty of political muscle, but so do principals, superintendents, janitors and every other stakeholder in the public school system. So who represents students? Mr. Cuomo says he will.

As part of his focus on school reform, Mr. Cuomo will put together a new commission that will address three key issues: teacher accountability, student achievement and the management of the state’s public schools. These are hot-button issues for all those other lobbyists out there who are seeking to protect their constituents from the sort of reforms that students deserve. Let’s hope Mr. Cuomo is prepared for battle, because that’s precisely what he will have on his hands.

The fate of a state law mandating teacher evaluations offers an object lesson for any school reformer. Unions representing teachers and principals have stalled full implementation of evaluations, no doubt because these new procedures threaten to bring dreaded accountability into the state’s classrooms. This is the mind-set Mr. Cuomo proposes to change on behalf of students. He had better be serious.

Mr. Cuomo has it exactly right: in the battle over education reform, the only stakeholders who lack a voice are the children whose future prospects hang in the balance. A new study by economists at Harvard and Yale universities showed that high-performing teachers have a permanent impact on their students, leading them to more successful jobs and careers.

There is no question that good teachers can make a difference and that bad teachers are obstacles to progress. As chief lobbyist for the state’s school children, Mr. Cuomo will have to remind his colleagues of that simple but important truth.