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City and union have two weeks to strike turnaround deal

New York City has two weeks to convince the teachers union to sign onto its plans to turnaround 34 low-performing schools.

The feds have given the state $308 million to distribute to local school districts to “turn around” their lowest performing schools. Districts have until May 24 to apply for a portion of those funds, and the applications must include which of four federally-approved methods the districts plan to use to turn around each school.

And in most cases, districts will need to negotiate side deals with their unions outside of their regular contract to accommodate individual schools’ turnaround plans, State Deputy Education Commissioner John King said over the weekend. Each district must negotiate those changes before it submits its application for funds, King said.

The state’s list of schools targeted for turnaround includes 34 in New York City. And at least one of the four turnaround methods the city wants to use — and the only option that does not require firing teaching staff — would require the city and teachers union to negotiate side provisions to the contracts for teachers at those schools.

City officials claimed last week that the “transformation” model requires the contract to be overhauled and said the union has resisted changes. Union officials countered that they would be willing to talk about ways of satisfying the transformation model, but said the city has not approached them about it.

It’s not unheard of for the city and union to negotiate contract changes for teachers at individual schools. Brooklyn Generation School, for example, used both the “school-based option” clause and a side addendum to the contract to allow for the school’s unusual calendar.

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