NY State Suspends Funding from 10 School Districts

The New York state Department of Education has cut millions of dollars in funding from 10 districts that receive School Improvement Grants, writes Scott Waldman at the Times Union.

The Albany and Schenectady school districts were dealt the huge blow after missing the deadline to have their teacher and principal evaluations in place, despite having been warned of the possibility last week.

"The deadline is real; the funding is suspended," Education Commissioner John King said in a statement.

The districts had failed to reach a deal on the evaluations with their unions, and the Department didn't feel Albany sufficiently detailed how it would implement student standardized test scores in their teacher performance evaluations.

The Albany district is now set to lose at least $3.3 million, while the Schenectady school district could lose up to $6 million.

King has granted each district 30 days to request a hearing on a restoration of the funds, which Albany was planning to use to transform student performance on standardized tests and the low graduation rate of Albany High School and Hackett Middle School, two of the district's most troubled schools.

The suspension of funds came shortly after Albany missed the deadline for plans for a new teacher evaluation system and that the district's School Improvement Grant was cut off Jan. 1.

Spokesman Dennis Tompkins said Albany's paperwork had been received last week after confirming that the district had missed the deadline and that funding would be cut off.

However, Albany Superintendent Raymond Colucciello insists that Albany school officials handed over the district's plans for teacher evaluation to the department's headquarters on Thursday, a full 48 hours before the deadline.

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi accused the department of using bully tactics by freezing funds.

"This action will have an immediate negative impact on those students and classrooms that can least afford further disruption.

"SED and Commissioner King have demonstrated that they have totally lost their way in shepherding real, meaningful reform."

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