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Walcott: Teacher layoffs not on table after eval deal collapse

The collapse of teacher evaluation talks comes with many costs, but teacher layoffs won’t be among them, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today.

The Department of Education is set to forgo $240 million in increased state school aid after it failed to agree on a new evaluation system with the teachers union by a state deadline last week. State officials have since said the city will have to go without far more funding until it adopts a new evaluation system.

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg said it was “much too early to tell” whether the losses would require teacher layoffs, which he has threatened but never carried out in the past.

But during a radio appearance today, Walcott said teacher layoffs are not on the table. “We’re not looking at layoffs,” he told host John Gambling, whose show has been a forum for city, union, and state officials to stake their positions in the conflict.

Instead, Walcott said, cuts “should probably land mostly on my budget, but the mayor will determine what those next steps will be.”

Last month, Walcott warned that without a new evaluation system, class sizes would likely rise, teacher training would suffer, after-school activities would be eliminated, and guidance counselors would be cut. Plus, even if the city does not move to lay teachers off, it could decide to replace fewer of the teachers who resign or retire this year.

Walcott also said today that he is still hoping to resolve the conflict with the teachers union, and he backed away from the harsh criticism that Bloomberg leveled against the UFT on Tuesday. “I want to take this opportunity to try to lower the rhetoric a little,” he said, adding, “Who’s to blame? I want to move away from that.”

And while Bloomberg has criticized the state’s evaluation law for being too timid and the State Education Department for approving short-term evaluation plans in most school districts, Walcott had kinder words for the centerpiece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policy initiatives. “The law makes sense,” he said.

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