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Bebeto Matthews, Associated Press
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, right, listens as Mamado Bah, 16, explains his project in his 11th grade physics class at the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 in New York. The Mayor visited the school to hear about their progress, and fielded questions at a press conference about his proposals to continue improvements in student achievement and public education.

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed Wednesday to move forward with his plan to overhaul 33 struggling schools and replace up to half of their teachers.

"The students in these 33 schools that we're talking about deserve effective teachers, as do all of our students in all of our 1,700 schools," Bloomberg said during a visit to the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science in the Bronx.

Bloomberg announced the plan to effectively close the 33 schools and reopen them during his state of the city speech last week, saying the move would allow him to sidestep a battle with the United Federation of Teachers over teacher evaluations.

If state education officials accept Bloomberg's overhaul plan, they will free up nearly $60 million in federal aid that the 33 schools are supposed to receive.

Bloomberg said Wednesday that the money is important, but overhauling the schools is even more important.

"These are 33 schools that have not been performing," he said. "We have an obligation to the kids in those schools."

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said hearings on closing and reopening the schools will likely take place in March or April.

"These children need to have high quality-schools, high quality teachers, plain and simple," Walcott said.

They spoke one day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his own challenge to unions over teacher evaluations.

Cuomo said Tuesday he would give school districts and unions 30 days to settle a lawsuit that is blocking a statewide teacher evaluation plan or he would draw one up himself. "Education really isn't an employment program for adults. It's an education program for the students," Cuomo said.

Bloomberg praised Cuomo's action and said the governor "understands the problem."

Asked if Cuomo might impose his evaluation plan on city schools, Bloomberg said, "I don't think the governor wants to do that yet. He wants each city to negotiate with its union."

Earlier, Bloomberg visited an English class and a physics class at the Urban Assembly school.

He told the English class that since he graduated from high school in 1960, he didn't remember much about the two books being discussed, "Of Mice and Men" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."

He told students in the physics class, "What I like about science is, there's a right answer and a wrong answer."