City Proposes to Help Pay Off New Teacher Student Loans

Teachers who graduated at the top of their college classes could qualify for up to $25,000 in assistance.

Friday, Jan 13, 2012  |  Updated 6:35 AM EDT
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Bloomberg will give his speech at Morris High School in the Bronx.

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New York City teacher-recruits who finished at the top of their college classes could get help from City Hall in paying off their student loans under a program announced by the mayor in his 11th state of the city speech Thursday.

Bloomberg, speaking at Morris High School in the Bronx, revealed that the city would help pay off up to $25,000 of student loans for new teachers who commit to stay.

"The burden of paying back college loans can sometimes lead top-level students to cross teaching off their list of possible careers," he said. "But we need their talents in our classrooms."

The mayor also vowed to sidestep a labor dispute over teacher evaluations and form "school-based committees" to evaluate teachers at 33 struggling schools — and fire up to half of them.

Bloomberg said he can make the move under a school turnaround provision authorized by federal and state law.

"This year, we'll do more to make sure every classroom has an effective teacher — and to remove those who don't make the grade," he said.

The plan to sidestep the United Federation of Teachers over evaluations was a bid to salvage up to $60 million in school improvement grants targeted to the 33 struggling schools. The city and the UFT are at an impasse over differences including due process protections for teachers who receive low ratings.

"We're not going to accept that," the mayor said. "And we're not going to allow ineffective teachers to remain in those 33 schools or in any school."

The UFT said the mayor is "fibbing" and has declared war on teachers.

Bloomberg said that under a plan consistent with the existing union contract, the city can form school-based committees to evaluate teachers on merit and replace up to half of the faculty in those schools.

"Under this process, the best teachers stay; the least effective go. And now, that is exactly what will happen," he said.

Bloomberg also announced that teachers rated "highly effective" for two consecutive years will receive a salary hike by $20,000 per year. It was not clear how that evaluation system would work.

The mayor also said he is taking another try at redeveloping a 575,000 square-foot armory in the Bronx that he says could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs.

In his speech, he announced plans to issue a request for proposals for the Kingsbridge Armory.

The city issued a similar request in 2006, but a deal to redevelop the armory into a retail center fell apart amid calls by some elected officials to require that workers at the center be paid what they called a living wage.
 
Bloomberg has said he doesn't support a proposal currently being considered by the City Council that would require all employees at city-subsidized developments to be paid $10 per hour or more.
 

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