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Walcott Warns of 'Painful' Cuts Unless Teacher Evaluation Deal Reached Soon

By Jill Colvin | December 5, 2012 1:39pm
 Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he wants a deal with the UFT by December 21.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he wants a deal with the UFT by December 21.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

CITY HALL — Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned of severe budget cuts unless the city and teachers union can reach a deal on teacher evaluations in the coming weeks.

The city is facing a loss of $250 million in state dollars unless it can implement a new, controversial teacher-evaluation system by Jan. 17, 2013.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw down the gauntlet in his budget speech last year, threatening to withhold a 4-percent increase in education funding in an effort to spur cities and towns to put the new system in place by that date.

But Walcott said Wednesday that the city and teachers union have failed to reach a deal, and set a new deadline for negotiations for Dec. 21.

“Despite some progress in negotiations with our union partners, it pains me to stand before you today — with less than 50 days to the deadline — without an agreement,” Walcott said at a Manhattan Institute event held at the Harvard Club Wednesday.

“This is an unfortunate reality," he said, "and these cuts would be painful."

Unless a deal is reached, Walcott said the city will be forced to make drastic new cuts — including hiring fewer teachers and eliminating professional development opportunities for staff and after-school programs for students, such as music, sports and art.

Also on the chopping block are guidance counselors, social workers and other school support staff, as well as cuts to instructional materials, including library books.

“We would expect that cuts would lead to fewer teachers being hired, which will probably lead to larger class sizes,” Walcott said.

Under state law, up to 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation grade is supposed to be based on students’ test scores, while 60 percent is based on more subjective measures, like classroom observations.

But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the UFT has been trying to negotiate with the city for the past two years, and accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Walcott of playing politics.

“Rather than establishing bogus deadlines and threatening parents with the loss of teachers and services, they should be focusing on reaching an agreement that will actually help make the schools better,” he said in a statement.

“Making schools better also means the administration needs to provide the things that teachers and students need but which the DOE has largely ignored — curriculum, smaller classes, and an acknowledgement that their job is to actually assist schools and students, rather than just preaching accountability.”

The state Education Department would need to review the city's system before it can be put in place.