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Two more districts to get SIG funds back, but NYC still cut off

Two more New York State school districts will have their federal funding restored after adopting new teacher evaluations for this school year, State Education Commissioner John King announced today.

In January, King cut off the funds, known as School Improvement Grants, to 10 districts that had been receiving them to help overhaul low-performing schools. The districts had not adequately complied with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt new evaluations for teachers in those schools, King said.

But after the state’s teacher evaluation deal in February, five districts refined their applications sufficiently to have their funding restored. Today, two more districts — Yonkers and Roosevelt — got their funding back. The announcement means that just three districts, including New York City, are still shut out of funding for the year. The city was supposed to get almost $60 million this year through the grant program.

The other two districts that haven’t met the state’s requirements for this year are Greenburgh 11 and Buffalo. Greenburgh 11, a tiny school district that serves only students with special needs, has been silent on the issue of teacher evaluations all year. Buffalo, on the other hand, devolved into conflict this month after King rejected an evaluations agreement between the city and its teachers union, saying that their plan to exclude the scores of chronically absent students was unacceptable.

Since losing the funding in January, city officials have said that they hoped to have the funds restored for this year by committing the schools to a different reform program — “turnaround,” which does not require new teacher evaluations — for next year. But the city has not yet applied for next year’s funds. And in a sign that the city is preparing to give up on this year’s SIG funds, the citywide school board last week approved one year of public funding for 11 of the schools’ partnerships with nonprofit groups. The contract that the board approved would be canceled this summer if the state does not receive SIG funding next year, according to a Department of Education spokesman.

City officials have said they would rather focus their negotiations on a citywide evaluation deal than on hammering out a limited deal for the 33 schools eligible for SIG funds. But negotiations on the citywide evaluation system remain stalled, mostly over the turnaround plans. Last week, a state labor relations board decided to install a mediator to referee talks about evaluations in the 33 schools. City officials said they would fight the order to resume discussions with the United Federation of Teachers.

The seven districts that have now met King’s requirements to receive this year’s SIG funds will have to go back to the negotiating table next year. That’s because the statewide deal changes the rules for local districts’ evaluation systems.