NYC, union at impasse on teacher evaluations

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NEW YORK — New York City and a union representing the city’s 75,000 teachers were at an impasse Thursday in negotiations over a teacher evaluation plan, putting the city at risk of losing up to $450 million in state aid and grants.

The two sides blamed each other while Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted that a midnight Thursday deadline for a plan — required from each of the state’s nearly 700 school districts — was firm.

Without the evaluation plan, the city stands to lose $250 million in state aid and $200 million in grants. That is a small percentage of the city Department of Education’s $19.7 billion operating budget for the nation’s largest school district, but the loss would be felt.

Teacher evaluations have been contentious across the country and sparked a strike in Chicago last fall.

A law enacted in New York in 2010 required districts to submit evaluation plans. Twenty percent of the evaluations must be based on students’ growth on state tests. Another 20 percent must be based on local measures, and the remaining 60 percent must include classroom observations and also can include parent or student surveys.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the union “unilaterally walked away” from negotiations early Thursday, while the United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew blamed Mr. Bloomberg for the impasse and asserted that “the intransigence of the Bloomberg administration on key issues has made it impossible to reach agreement on a new teacher evaluation system.”

Each of New York state’s districts was told to submit a plan to the state Education Department for approval Jan. 17 or lose their increase in state aid. All but New York City and three smaller districts had submitted plans by Wednesday.

Mr. Cuomo insisted that school districts and their unions had until the deadline to submit their plans “or they will forfeit the increase in education aid they have been counting on and both parties will have failed the children they serve.”

“Please hear me — there will be no extensions or exceptions,” Mr. Cuomo said earlier Thursday.

Mr. Bloomberg told a news conference at City Hall that the UFT had made unreasonable demands including a requirement that the evaluation deal sunset in June 2015. He said that would render the evaluation system “meaningless” because it takes two years to get an ineffective teacher out.

“If the agreement sunsetted in two years, the whole thing would be a joke. Nobody would ever be able to be removed,” he said.

Additionally, Mr. Bloomberg said, the union wanted to double the number of arbitration hearings available to teachers who filed grievances as part of the evaluation process.

“That would make it, again, much harder to weed out ineffective teachers because more and more of these cases would go to arbitrators, and it would bog our principals down in lengthy arbitration hearings, taking precious time away from their duties as school leaders,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Mulgrew said he has “never seen such a blatant misrepresentation of the facts” and denied that the 2015 sunset provision was a new union demand, as the mayor claimed.

“For the mayor to say that came up at the last minute — he’s lying,” Mr. Mulgrew said.

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