War of Words Escalates over Eval Deal

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The teachers' union dialed up the rhetoric in its battle with Mayor Michael Bloomberg over teacher evaluations with a new television advertisement hitting the airwaves Friday.

The 30-second ad shows a high school senior who was a first grader when Bloomberg took office and says "while she's changed a lot, he hasn't," adding "It's his way or the highway."

The ad accuses the mayor of "going after teachers" instead of helping them improve the schools. A narrator says, "It's time for the mayor to put politics aside and agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help kids succeed."

A union spokesman said the spot will air through Jan. 17, the deadline for the city and the union to agree on a new teacher evaluation system. If they don't, the city will lose $250 million in state aid. The union said it's spending $1.2 million to run the advertisement during many popular morning and evening programs.

The Bloomberg administration has accused the teachers union of refusing to negotiate, and of throwing in too many extra demands that aren't related to teacher evaluations. It filed a complaint with the state's Public Employment Relations Board late last month.

Speaking on WOR Radio Friday morning, Bloomberg said the ad projected the wrong "body language" if the union were serious about reaching a deal.

"What kind of a strategy is this? And they're not stupid, they know what they're doing. So they're deliberately trying to keep us from having a contract. It's the only rational explanation for wasting their members' money on running ads," he said.

State law requires school districts to have their teacher and principal evaluation systems approved by Jan. 17 in order to get an extra 4 percent in state aid which comes to about $250 million for New York City. The new evaluations rely on a combination of classroom observations and student test scores.

Governor Andrew Cuomo brokered a deal between teachers unions and the state's department of education almost a year ago that dealt with many of the unions' concerns. But New York City is among just nine districts that have yet to reach a final agreement with their unions. The United Federation of Teachers has expressed concerns about how student classwork will be measured in evaluating teachers.

Cuomo recently warned he will not extend the Jan. 17 deadline.