NYC Schools Lose $450 Million as Teacher-Eval Deal Fails

New York City schools lost $450 million in state and federal aid after a midnight deadline passed without a deal between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the teachers union on an evaluation system.

“The city is not going to get the funding, and it’s a tragedy,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said today on WOR Radio in New York. “They both failed. We needed an agreement, and now the education system in the city is going to suffer.”

Bloomberg said yesterday the union added a last-minute demand that the evaluation process expire after two years, which he said wouldn’t be enough time to dismiss a failing teacher. He said that whenever the sides were close, the union “moved the finish line.” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the mayor “blew up the deal.”

“Despite the involvement of state officials, we could not put it back together,” Mulgrew said yesterday at a news briefing at the union’s lower Manhattan headquarters.

At stake was $250 million in state aid and another $200 million in potential grants related to President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top education program. New York City, with the largest U.S. school system, employs about 75,000 teachers and educates 1.1 million students on a $19.7 billion annual budget.

Much Blame

“There’s no shortage of blame to go around, and, unfortunately, the kids are the big losers,” Micah Lasher, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, an advocacy group, said in a statement. Children “will lose out because the adults couldn’t stop fighting and get their acts together,” he said.

Cuomo set the midnight deadline for the state’s 700 school districts to submit teacher-evaluation plans. About 98 percent of the systems reached agreements with their teachers, he said.

“There will be no extensions or exceptions,” the 55-year-old Democrat said yesterday.

The two sides in New York City met for the past six weeks and had agreed on a 2015 expiration date, only to see it form the basis for the mayor’s rejection, Mulgrew said.

“We had an agreement,” the UFT president said yesterday. “That ‘sunset provision’ was in there for a very long time.”

Most of the school districts that reached agreements with teachers accepted one-year expiration dates on their evaluation plans, said Ernest Logan, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, which represents principals.

Teacher Ratings

Under state law, 20 percent of the ratings must be based on students’ improvement on state tests; 20 percent on local measures; and 60 percent must include classroom and parent observations, and student surveys.

Both sides in New York City had resolved disagreements about who should weigh teacher performance, and on how low-scorers should be counseled and trained, Mulgrew said. The city and the union also differed on the circumstances under which a poorly performing teacher should be dismissed, he said in an interview this month.

The negotiations over evaluations took place as municipal officials also cope with a strike by school bus drivers and matrons, who escort children from the vehicles. The strike, which began Jan. 16, affects more than 100,000 public and parochial students.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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