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City's bid to win Race to the Top funds without union buy-in fails

A gamble that the city took back in October did not pay off this week when the state announced which districts would receive extra funds to pay for teacher training.

The city had applied for the funds, part of the state’s Race to the Top winnings, back in October. But it came up short on one crucial requirement of the application: demonstrating that the teachers union agreed that new teacher evaluations would be in place this year.

At the time, the UFT and city had hashed out a tentative teacher evaluation deal for the 33 schools that were receiving federal School Improvement Grants, but their relations were growing more tense. Here’s what we reported at the time:

The decaying union-city relations could help explain why, when it submitted a bid last week for teacher training funds, the Department of Education asked for its share of Race to the Top funds to go only to schools included in the limited evaluation deal. …

It’s unclear whether the state would approve the city’s funding bids without the [union] memorandums in place. If the city’s application is turned down, the funds would be dispersed among other districts, according to Race to the Top rules.

This standstill could cause problems for future [Requests for Proposals]. The next grant, which opened up to applications last week and would fund principal training programs, also requires a union signature.

Since October, the “decaying relations” between the city and union evolved into full-fledged impasse, and the limited evaluation deal evaporated at even the 33 schools that had been included in it.

On Thursday, the State Education Department announced that three districts had won the funds, totaling more than $1.3 million. New York City was not among them.

The three districts that won the teacher training grants are Albany, Wyandanch Union Free School District, and Buffalo, which will receive funds despite difficulties in getting its teacher evaluation deal approved by the state. The funds will let the districts pay mentors to help new teachers in high-needs schools and shortage subject areas.

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