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Under Cuomo’s heavy hand, talks resume on city teacher evals

The tense standoff between the city and the teachers union appears to be thawing in response to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has stepped forward in recent days to demand resolution to the conflict.

A United Federation of Teachers spokesman confirmed today that “informal talks” with the city have started up after nearly a month away from the negotiating table. Talks broke down in late December over whether a third party should judge the appeals of poorly rated teachers. As a result, the state cut the city off from $58 million in federal funds for struggling schools.

Last week, Cuomo issued an ultimatum to local school districts to settle their teacher evaluation issues within 30 days. “If they can’t do that then we’ll do it for them,” he said at the time.

Today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew — who along with other top city education officials met with Cuomo in Albany on Monday — lauded the governor’s “intervention.”

“We are happy that the governor’s intervention over teacher evaluations has led to communication between New York City and the UFT,” Mulgrew said in a statement.

The Department of Education declined to comment and union officials were mum on additional details, including whether the negotiations would affect the status of 33 schools that the city planning to close through a federal improvement model called turnaround. An agreement could potentially take the turnaround plan off the table and allow these schools to stay open and revert back to their previous improvement models, “restart” and “transformation.”

Cuomo ratcheted up his criticism of teachers unions two weeks ago after the federal government warned New York State that it was at risk of losing millions in Race to the Top dollars.

The state education department and NYSUT also have yet to come to terms on a statewide system, even though last week the two sides seemed ready to announce a settlement. A settlement is unlikely to happen until at least next week, a source said today.

In fact, a final statewide settlement might not come until New York City settles its own issues of the third-party mediator. Cuomo’s heavy-handed presence in the dispute, which has been recognized as uniquely stubborn, is a sign that he wants to see all districts ready to implement teacher evaluations by the end of the 30-day deadline.