If nearly $300 million wasn’t incentive enough for the city to create an evaluation plan, state Education Commissioner John King said today that he hopes the threat of more than $1 billion will do the trick.
King assailed the city and the teachers union for their failure to reach a deal on evaluations before last night’s deadline and vowed to get them to do so in the coming weeks. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott today, King said he plans to add teeth to the request by taking advantage of a $1 billion pot of funds meant for city schools that the state has the power to withhold or control.
“They have a legal obligation to continue their negotiation,” King said in a call with reporters today. “I’m disappointed that they’re not at the table today…They thought this new system was the right thing for students. If so, shouldn’t they be at the table?”
King set a new deadline for the city. If the city fails to submit a plan by Feb. 15 that shows it is prepared to implement an evaluation by March 1, King said he has the authority to take over more than $800 million in federal Title I and II funding and withhold more than $300 million in Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. King said the Title I and II money would still be spent in New York City classrooms, but that he would have control over how it is spent.
“It’s not our intention to deprive students of much-needed resources. Part of what we’re trying to convey is that we’ll direct their use of dollars,” King told reporters afternoon.
The $1 billion would come on top of an estimated $240 million in increased state aid that New York City already lost by failing to come to a deal yesterday. King also disclosed for the first time that the funding loss caused by yesterday’s missed deadline includes an additional $45 million in state grants that are eligible only for districts that have an approved evaluation plan.
King’s remarks also challenged Mayor Bloomberg’s statements surrounding yesterday’s failed teacher evaluation negotiations.
King stopped short of saying which side was to blame, but he offered some insight that challenged the mayor’s version of events and supported the union’s.
City officials said the union wrecked any possibility of a deal by trying to insert new terms at the last minute to make it harder to fire ineffective teachers. Bloomberg said he did not want the plan to expire and that one of union’s demands was a “sunset clause,” which would have allowed the system to default back to the current system.
“If the agreement sunset in two years the whole thing would be a joke,” Bloomberg said at a press conference yesterday. “Nobody would ever be able to be removed.”
In his remarks to reporters, King seconded the union’s version of events — that the city had actually intended to sign off on and submit a short-term plan.
“That comment from the mayor was from my perspective a new issue that was raised after they walked away from the table,” King said.
“My understanding, as of yesterday morning, was the submission we would receive officially from them when they completed the agreement was going to cover two years,” King added.
Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew immediately embraced King’s remarks. “I want to thank Commissioner King for clarifying many of the issues around the UFT’s negotiations with the DOE over a new teacher evaluation system, particularly the sunset provision,” he said in a statement released late today.
King also sided with another union on another issue: implementation. The union called off negotiations briefly last month over concerns that the city wasn’t properly training principals and teachers in how the new system would work.
King seconded that description.
“Throughout these negotiations what became clear is that principals have not received the training necessary to implement the evaluation system,” King said.
He said that the new Feb. 14 deadline requires that the city submit a plan that shows it is prepared to implement large portions of an evaluation system. The plan would have to include agreements on a teacher observation rubric and a plan to train staff to use the new system, among other things, he said.
The city said it planned to comply with King’s new deadline, but refuted his characterization of its implementation plans so far.
In a conference call with reporters, Deputy Chancellor David Weiner, who led negotiations with the union, cited several programs that the department meant to prepare teachers to be observed on a new instructional rubric, including the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot and the citywide Teacher Effectiveness Intensive.
Speaking in the same call, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky vowed not to cow to pressure to make a deal.
“We’re not going to just do it for show,” Polakow-Suransky said of an evaluation system. “We’re not just going to to do it for money. We’re going to do it right. Until we get a deal that doesn’t undermine us and take us backward, we’re not going to do it.