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As clock winds down, talks continue but wide impasse remains

Almost immediately after UFT President Michael Mulgrew finished ripping Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of how talks broke down between the two sides this morning, he informed members that there might still be a chance.

“Now they want to talk,” Mulgrew told members at a Delegate Assembly meeting after being handed a sheet of paper, according to several teachers who attended.

In addition to $250 million that’s on the line if a midnight deadline passes, no evaluation plan would also be a black eye for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who devised the law to withhold state funding from districts that failed to submit plans. Earlier this month, he declared the law succeeded, touting the fact that 99 percent of districts had submitted plans.

But New York City and its 1.1 million students have remained a prominent outlier as the time wound down. Heading into this week, officials acknowledged that they were close to a deal in between lengthy negotiation meetings. This morning, the meetings broke down and both sides spent the afternoon dodging blame about who was responsible.

The slim possibility that a deal could get hammered out before its midnight deadline came just over an hour after Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mulgrew said the chances were grim that there would be enough time.

“The time to get all the paperwork done is not there,” Mulgrew said at a press conference that took place less than an hour after he said in a statement that Bloomberg stood in the way of a deal.

But both sides still seem far apart on the terms for a deal to get done. Education officials reiterated this evening that they would only approve an evaluation plan with no expiration date, while the union said it wanted the system to be revisited in 2015.

In either case, New York City would have a plan that’s in place for longer than most other districts. Over 90 percent of evaluation plans approved by the state so far are for only one year, something that Governor Cuomo said he would seek to change in a budget law this year.

At his press conference, Mulgrew refuted Bloomberg’s claim that the union abruptly introduced the terms of a “sunset clause” late into the negotiation process. Bloomberg also said the union had suddenly demanded that the plan include a level of hearings for teachers to challenge the evaluation procedure if they believe rules were not followed, which Mulgrew also disputed.

“For the mayor to say that that came on at the last minute — he’s just, he’s lying,” Mulgrew said.

Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan issued a statement that supported Mulgrew. Logan said his union and the city were close to a deal late last night, but that “moments later, the Mayor intervened, demanding an agreement for an indefinite period of time,” Logan said.

At the state level, optimism remains. In a statement this afternoon State Education Department John King said it wasn’t too late for his team of reviewers to look over a deal.

“Even at this late hour, Mayor Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers President Mulgrew still have time,” King said. “They can still put aside what seem to be minor differences and resolve this crisis.”

On a conference call with reporters this evening, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky was adamant that the city would not budge from its position on a plan’s timeline.

“We’ve never ever agreed to any kind of sunset clause. We have never ever agreed to that and we will not,” he said.

In a statement released late tonight, Mulgrew said that he would still listen to offers.

“We would be open to a serious proposal, but we have yet to hear one today from the Department of Education,” Mulgrew said.

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