Neither the teachers union nor the Bloomberg administration should count on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to go easy on them while the two sides negotiate a teacher evaluation deal. He gave a definitive "nope" when asked Wednesday if he would consider extending the Jan. 17 deadline, thereby preventing the city from losing about $250 million in state aid while it hammers out an agreement.
"It was not a good faith effort by that date, it was accomplishment by that date. It was performance by that date," Cuomo said, sternly. "That's what the law said. That was the directive from very early on. We didn’t say ‘everybody should try.’ You know, government always tries. The problem with government is sometimes it doesn't perform. So we didn't say let's everybody should try. They’d been trying for years and failing for years.
"This was a hard deadline. If you get it done, great, you get 4 percent additional funding. If you don’t get it done, that's your business but then you don’t get the 4 percent additional funding."
The United Federation of Teachers had no response to the governor's remarks. A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Education said: "We agree it wasn't a good-faith effort deadline, but an agreement deadline, and that's why we're continuing to work to meet that and are confident that if the U.F.T. returns to the table, we can reach a deal by January 17."
Talks between the two sides broke down shortly before the end of December, with both sides hurling accusations at each other. The city filed a complaint with the state's Public Employment Relations Board on Dec. 27 claiming the union failed to negotiate in good faith by imposing several "impermissible preconditions to bargaining." It said the union wanted to limit how many schools would be closed or phased-out for low performance in 2013-2014, and that it also sought to tie wage increases to the teacher evaluation system.
The teachers union denied these allegations. However its president, Michael Mulgrew, did insist on negotiating the roll-out of a new evaluation system before finalizing the details. He cited complaints by members that a pilot program for observing teachers had been extended without any warning to more schools. The city said the schools had ample preparation.
Meanwhile, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a Dec. 5 speech that if the city can't reach an agreement with the U.F.T. it will have to pass the loss of $250 million in state aid on to the schools, which have already gone through a few lean years.
"While principals would make final decisions about how to absorb budget reductions, we would expect that cuts would lead to fewer teachers being hired, which will probably lead to larger class sizes," he stated. He added that he also expected cuts to professional development, instructional materials and after-school programs.
New York State's education department said a total of nine districts, including New York City, have not yet submitted their teacher evaluation plans. The others are Fallsburg, Hamburg, Harrison, Montauk, Onteora, pine Plains, Remsen and Yonkers.
The state has approved teacher evaluation plans for 533 school districts, and that it's also provided feedback for those districts whose plans have not yet been approved.