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UPDATE: Bloomberg calls teacher evaluations a 'sham'

January 28, 2013
Updated 4:12 p.m.
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— New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday blasted new teacher evaluations statewide as “shams” and “a fraud on the public,” created to extract school aid, not improve teachers.

He told state legislators that it was irresponsible for them to pass the 2010 law because he said it ties school aid to union approval of local teacher evaluations. He said unions have no incentive to approve effective evaluations and that denying aid only hurts students.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed for passage of the law.

Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers union failed to agree on a local system to evaluate teachers. The local evaluations aim to identify “unsatisfactory” teachers and provide remedial help to improve instruction.

Failure to meet the Jan. 17 deadline is expected to cost New York City schools $250 million in state aid as a penalty, and result in a lower base of state aid for years to come. Bloomberg said that will continue to shortchange New York City’s 1 million students for years.

After his three-hour testimony, Bloomberg wouldn’t say if he has any indication he can recover the city schools’ lost aid through the Legislature despite failing to agree on a union deal.

Blooomberg said no other state requires union approval of effective, local teacher evaluations, which he said is “impossible.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has blamed Bloomberg for the lack of a deal. Mulgrew said the Bloomberg administration has been uncompromising on key issues, making it impossible to reach agreement.

Without the evaluation plan for its 75,000 teachers, the city stands to lose $250 million in state aid and $200 million in grants this year. Although the city Department of Education has a $19.7 billion operating budget for the nation’s largest school district, the lost state aid would be felt.

Cuomo, however, has declared his teacher evaluation system a success. Ninety-nine percent of the state’s 700 school districts met the deadline for putting teacher and principal evaluations in place. The evaluations were part of a package of education reforms included in the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” competition among states. New York schools were awarded $700 million.

On Monday, Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat, engaged Bloomberg in an uncharacteristically loud confrontation. She pressed Bloomberg to take some responsibility for failing to agree with the union, costing students like her son critical resources.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco of Onondaga County also bristled at Bloomberg’s criticism of the law and the Legislature. DeFrancisco said Bloomberg’s use of the words fraud and sham were overstated when 99 percent of other school districts found a way to comply with the law and avoid the penalty of losing the state’s 4 percent increase in state school aid.

Bloomberg, however, blamed the union for last-minute proposals that he said would have made the evaluation system unworkable. He said the negotiations would have required the teacher evaluations to end after two years, before any teachers completed the evaluation process. He said the vast majority of other school districts statewide agreed to bad deals to keep their school aid.

He said the state Education Department “accepted the plans they know were total frauds.”

He also criticized the Legislature for adopting the law.

“Sometimes,” Bloomberg said, “you have to stand on principle.”

The state Legislature’s budget hearing continued through Monday with testimony by other municipal leaders statewide.

 

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