City and Union Fail to Reach Deal on Teacher Evaluations

By Jill Colvin on January 17, 2013 4:27pm | Updated on January 17, 2013 8:46pm

 Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

NEW YORK CITY — The city and the teachers' union have failed to reach a deal on a teacher evaluation system, compromising nearly half a billion dollars in education aid hours before a state-imposed deadline.

"I am sorry to announce that I have notified Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and other state officials that — despite long nights of negotiation and a willingness on the part of teachers to meet the DOE halfway — the intransigence of the Bloomberg administration on key issues has made it impossible to reach agreement on a new teacher evaluation system," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed the union.

"There was an agreement to be had here. We were actually very close. But unfortunately every time we approached a deal in recent days, the UFT moved the finish line back," he said at a press conference at City Hall.

Both sides blamed the other for walking out of the negotiations just before 3 a.m. Thursday after days of round-the-clock negotiations ahead of a Jan. 17 deadline set by Cuomo last year.

Without a deal, the city will lose $250 million in state education aid, as well as another $200 million in potential grant money.

The loss threatens to punch a gaping hole in the city's already fragile budget, which had assumed the money would come through.

“A quarter of a billion dollars is something that we’ll have to deal with," said Bloomberg, adding that the money would likely come from a combination of education and other cuts.

At issue, Bloomberg said, were two deal-breakers: a last-minute request by the union to have the new evaluation system expire in two years, and a request to double then number of arbitration hearings available to teachers who file grievances.

Bloomberg said the sunset provision would render the deal useless, since it takes two years to remove a teacher from the system.

“The whole thing would be a joke. Nobody would ever be able to be removed,” he railed. "It would essentially sabotage the entire agreement."

But Mulgrew insisted the mayor had misrepresented the facts.

He said the sunset provision had long been part of a draft agreement, and said similar expirations have been part of other districts' deals.

He also insisted the two sides had actually reached a deal at 3 a.m., but that it was yanked unexpectedly a half-hour later by City Hall.

"I have never seen such a blatant misrepresentation of the facts," Mulgrew said angrily at a press conference after the mayor's. "He's lying."

According to Cuomo, the midnight deadline was firm.

"Please hear me — there will be no extensions or exceptions," he said in a statement, noting that 98 percent of the state's school districts have already implemented plans.

"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," he said.

The impasse comes the day after 8,000 school bus drivers went on strike to protest a loss of job protections.

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