NEW YORK—The city is on the brink of losing $240 million in education funding after the its Department of Education (DOE) and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) failed to reach an agreement on teacher evaluation criteria last week. Each side blamed the other in the days that followed.
New York City is among a select few districts that did not come up with a plan on time. State Education Commissioner John King wrote that 99.1 percent of the districts in the state have come up with an annual professional performance review plan. King summed up what the city stands to lose on top of the $240 million if no agreement is reached: $285.6 million in various state funds, over $100 million in federal grants, and over $830 million in federal Title I and IA grants.
King gave the city a new deadline, Feb. 15, and pointed out that the city is mandated by law to submit evaluation criteria, among other things, by that date.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will have to try and do “more with less,” when speaking to reporters following a press conference on Jan. 22. Bloomberg said he was not aware of a new deadline and did not think a deal was possible. The $240 million already lost accounts for close to 1 percent of the DOE’s annual budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had set a Jan. 17 deadline for the two sides to reach an agreement after which the funds would not be dispensed.
When the deal was almost complete, according to Bloomberg, the UFT inserted a “sunset clause” into the evaluation program, which would make the program expire in two years. Bloomberg said that such a clause would render the whole program useless as it takes two years to evaluate a teacher.
“I am not even looking at the money. We are not going to sign an evaluation deal that is a fraud and a hoax on the public,” Bloomberg said. “The public has the right to expect us to put the best teachers, the teachers that can do the job, in front of their kids.”
At a press conference shortly after the deal broke apart, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, said it was Bloomberg’s stubborn insistence to have things done his way that torpedoed the deal. Mulgrew mentioned the ongoing school bus strike, which is also a result of failed talks between the city and the union.
“Thousands of parents have gotten a lesson this week, as the mayor’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach has left thousands of schoolchildren stranded at curbs across the city by the school bus strike,” Mulgrew said. “That same stubborn attitude on the mayor’s part now means that our schools will suffer a loss of millions of dollars in state aid.”
Mulgrew said on Jan. 23 that the union has “given up working with this administration.”
The sunset clause, which was the culprit for the failure of the deal, was adopted by 99.1 percent of the districts with a one-year expiration date. New York City is an exception to the other cases: while an existing evaluation system would prevail in other districts once the agreement expires, the UFT has the power to veto the agreement—a clause the union obtained while Gov. David Paterson was in power.
“Having an evaluation system that works and is strong is better than having no evaluation system, which is what we now have,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said on Jan. 23.
The UFT and the DOE did not return requests for comment.