New York Won’t Strike Deal Just for Race to the Top Dollars

By the end of the school year, New York City and the teachers union are set to strike a deal on new teacher evaluations, bringing the city into compliance with state law and also be on the receiving end of millions of federal dollars, writes Rachel Cromidas at Gotham Schools.

Earlier this month, a New York Daily News editorial said schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott “has committed to surrender $60 million in federal school improvement grants unless he and the teachers union have agreed by the end of the year on a pilot system for evaluating teacher performance.”

But Walcott is adamant he won’t be beholden to money as to determining a decision. And his suggestion that the city might miss out on Race to the Top funds raised the possibility that if states and districts don’t keep their Race to the Top promises, they could be penalized.

“The U.S. Department of Education has said it will stop dispersing money to states that are not complying with their Race to the Top plans,” said Charles Barone, director of policy research at Democrats for Education Reform.

“They haven’t done that yet, but it seems New York is a top candidate.”

The situation is similar to last year’s last-minute, limited agreement on teacher evaluations at 33 low-performing schools between the city and the UFT. But there’s much more money on the line this time and with negotiations between the city and UFT souring, there are doubts on whether the eligible schools will get their cash.

Barone believes the state is right to insist on only distributing Race the to Top funding to schools that have new teacher evaluations in place, but the policy could mean that the state is setting itself up for a fall.

“[New York] won the money for than a year ago, and if all they have to show in the entire city of New York is 30 schools, then it seems that they might not be able to deliver on their promise and are reneging on the agreement they made with the feds,” Barone said.

The deadline to resolve local teacher deals is over half a year away, and that gives the city and the union plenty of time to come to an agreement. And Walcott is positive.

“I’m an eternal optimist, and I believe we will be able to reach some kind of agreement around teacher evaluations and where we’re going,” he said.