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De Blasio urges city not to pass the buck on teacher evaluations

It would be a big mistake for New York City to let Gov. Andrew Cuomo settle its teacher evaluations dispute, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Sunday.

The press conference came four days before Cuomo’s deadline for school districts to agree on new evaluations. If they don’t settle on new evaluations by Feb. 16, he said, he would “do it for them” — presumably by using the budgeting process to change the state’s teacher evaluations law.

In recent weeks, Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have signaled that they might prefer letting Cuomo take the lead, possibly because they hope he would side with them in a seemingly intractable local dispute. The city and teachers union have been stuck for more than a month on the issue of appeals for teachers who receive low ratings under a new system.

But de Blasio warned that passing the buck could backfire for the city.

“The minute it goes to Albany anything can happen,” he said. “There’s a much better chance of a plan that will work it’s agreed to up front.”

Plus, he said, the city should put a premium on managing its own affairs, no matter how sticky. De Blasio is eyeing a mayoral run in 2013.

“This is the kind of thing New York City should settle,” he said. “It’s up to New York City to solve New York City’s problems. And we can.”

De Blasio was joined by a small group of parents who braved the bitter cold for the press conference at Tweed Courthouse.
Albania Lopez, the mother of a recent graduate of George Washington High School and a current student at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, delivered a plea for agreement in Spanish. The city schools need the more than $600 million on the line over the evaluations, she said.

Bloomberg has muddied the negotiations process with his attacks on teachers, particularly during his State of the City address last month, de Blasio said.

“My concern, my dismay, is that Mayor Bloomberg has not set the right tone,” de Blasio said. “He could have said things very differently.”

Still, he said, the city and teachers unions are “big boys and girls” who should set aside hurt feelings for the good of students.

“Four days is plenty of time to settle these differences,” he said.

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