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Teacher Rating System Deal A Bust; City School Budget To Lose $250M

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TWC News: Teacher Rating System Deal A Bust; City School Budget To Lose $250M
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The city has failed to reach a state deadline to establish a teacher evaluation system for public school teachers, and $250 million in state aid for this year's budget is now said to be a bust.

The New York State Department Of Education wanted the state's 700 school districts to submit a teacher evaluation plan for approval by midnight Thursday, and city officials and the United Federation of Teachers spent the last six days in constant negotiations.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott first confirmed in an afternoon press conference that talks fell apart early around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Bloomberg claimed an agreement could not be reached due to added requests from the teachers' union, but UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at a later press conference that an agreement was reached, but the mayor broke the deal.

The mayor said negotiations collapsed because the teachers' union wanted the entire agreement to expire, or sunset, in June 2015.

He said the condition would make the program useless because the process to remove an ineffective teacher from the classroom takes two years.

"If the agreement sunsetted in two years, the whole thing would be a joke and nobody would ever be able to be removed," Bloomberg said. "The law would be gone before the process could finish. It would essentially sabotage the entire agreement."

"The sunset was not really, we didn’t feel it was that controversial," Mulgrew said. "So many of the districts in the state have it, and it makes sense to go back and stop and take a look at what you’re doing."

Bloomberg said another sticking point was the union's request to double the number of arbitration hearings available for teachers who file grievances under the new ratings system.

The mayor also said last-minute changes made by union leaders to the scoring method would have ensured that fewer teachers would be deemed ineffective.

"Instead of working with us to tie up the lose ends of this agreement, they continued to insert unrelated, extraneous issues into these negotiations," Bloomberg said.

Mulgrew later blasted Bloomberg and his account of the late night bargaining process. He said a deal was in fact in place but the mayor "torpedoed" it at the last minute.

"Just stop it, just tell everyone the truth. You didn't want the deal, you blew it up," Mulgrew said. "You agreed, you kept moving the goal posts. It was nonstop 'We want more, more, more, more, more,' and it doesn't matter what's best for kids."

New York City was one of a handful that had not turned a rating system in, putting $250 million in state aid on the line.

UFT officials said earlier this week that the city had refused to take part in mediation, posing a serious threat to meeting the deadline.

Another one of the delayed school districts, in Buffalo, turned in an evaluation system this afternoon.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated there would be no extensions or exceptions.

"Since we established one of the strongest teacher evaluation models in the nation last year, 98 percent of school districts have successfully implemented them," the statement read. "The remaining districts and their unions have until midnight tonight to do the same or they will forfeit the increase in education aid they have been counting on and both parties will have failed the children they serve."

The state aid was already part of in this school year's budget, and a lot of that money has already been spent by the city Department of Education.

The schools chancellor said there is no way to isolate individual schools from budget cuts resulting from the loss in state aid.

He said every school in the city will face painful cutbacks without a deal.

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