Time is running out for the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers to agree on a new teacher evaluation system or see the schools lose $250 million in state aid. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Dennis Walcott is a self-proclaimed eternal optimist, but as Governor Cuomo's January 17 deadline for the city and teachers' union to have a new teacher evaluation plan in place gets closer, the schools chancellor said optimism has given way to realism.
Missing the deadline means city schools would lose $250 million from the current budget.
"As Chancellor, I have to start to plan for that," Walcott said. "We can't wait until the last minute because the state has been very serious and the governor's office has been very serious that evaluation is tied in to this money, and if there isn't a deal, then the money will not be there."
He said a cut of this size would have to be handed down, at least in part, to the schools. Principals would have to find the savings, but Walcott admits schools have very few options halfway through the year and with many fixed costs, like teacher salaries.
He said cuts would likely hit music, art and sports and include substantial reductions in guidance counselors, social workers and other support staff.
"It's very difficult for schools to absorb mid-year budget cuts because the funds have already been committed," said Aaron Pallas of Teachers College at Columbia University.
To avoid the cut, the DOE and the union need to agree on exactly how teachers' performance will be rated each year, starting this year. It's something both sides say they want.
"We've been trying for two years to come to an evaluation agreement with the city," said Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers.
The chancellor said senior staffers are now focused exclusively on making that happen. On Wednesday, he asked the union to agree to get it done by December 21 so state officials have time to approve the plan by the deadline.
The union president would not agree to the Chancellor's December 21 deadline. In fact, he continues to say that even the threat of losing the funds after January 17 won't compel the union to make a deal.
"We're not doing based on politics, ideology or for money, because this evaluation will far outlast this administration," Mulgrew said. "When the Bloomberg administration is a bad memory, this evaluation system will still be in place."
But can they even get it in place? That's the $250 million question.