New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made an agreement with state legislature leaders to have a teacher evaluation system in place even after pacts between school districts and their local teachers unions expire. New Yorkers are hopeful that this change in the law would facilitate a final agreement between New York City and its unions even after they both missed the January 17th deadline to have a deal in place.
All the districts are now working out the four-tier teacher evaluation plan mandated by Cuomo in order for the state to unlock access to the missions of dollars of federal funds.
In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg identified stumbling blocks to a deal. He cited a disagreement with the union over arbitration rules for teachers and his concern that agreements across the state would expire after one year, which he said rendered them essentially toothless because it takes at least two years of bad evaluations before districts can quickly fire a tenured teacher.
The deal reached in Albany this week would ensure that the terms of a teacher-evaluation agreement would remain in place after it expires, much the same as contractual protections do.
The new law will not only paper over the disputes between school districts and their unions, it will also make it so yearly funding increases are distributed only to districts that have completed teacher evaluation agreements with their faculty and staff. The provision was attached to the long-awaited comprehensive budget legislation and is almost guaranteed passage when it comes to a vote.
Speaking after the compromise was announced, Cuomo’s spokeswoman Lauren Pessalacqua didn’t express certainty that the deal would finally act to bring the recalcitrant unions into line, but that the new measure will short-circuit any games of chicken that unions were attempting to play by holding off approving evaluation systems until after the deadline.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the agreement. Speaking of Mr. Bloomberg, he said: “We told him from day one that the agreement that was on the table did not stop him from disciplining teachers,” he said. “Why he keeps on insisting on saying it? If he was in my class, he would fail the test.”
The legislation also sets a new deadline of May 29 for the four districts without a system. Districts that fail to settle by then will face a state-imposed system designed by Education Commissioner John King.