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As latest teacher eval deadline nears, renewed pressure for deal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is getting an onscreen assist from advocates as he gears up to make yet another next move to get New York City to adopt new teacher evaluations. But his bid for more authority could face an uphill battle in the legislature.After the city and teachers union failed to agree on an evaluation system by his Jan. 17 deadline, Cuomo announced that he would use this year’s budget cycle to seek the right to impose a system on the city. Under his plan, legislators would write the right into state law when they sign off on this year’s state budget.

Budget amendments are due this week, and Fredric Dicker of the New York Post reported over the weekend that Cuomo is planning to propose language that would allow him to impose a teacher evaluation system on New York City if one is not in place by Sept. 17.

That’s not fast enough for some advocates of new teacher evaluations. The teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, which has been lobbying for new teacher evaluations, is running a television ad this week arguing that Cuomo should impose an evaluation system well before September.

Jonathan Schliefer, the group’s New York City director, said Cuomo’s deadline “kicks the can so far down the road” that teachers would have to go another year without being rated using multiple measures. (If the city and union had agreed on an evaluation system last month, the system would have generated ratings for the current school year, at least in theory.)

“Why not just establish a system as soon as possible?” Schliefer said. “The one thing that’s going to kill a system is uncertainty.”

The group bought airtime on several New York City television stations but aims to influence legislators in Albany, who would have to sign off on Cuomo’s request for him to have the power to impose evaluations.

Convincing legislators could be a challenge: They know that giving Cuomo the right to intervene in New York City would set a precedent for governors to step into local education disputes across the state. Currently, Cuomo has less sway over the State Education Department than over other state agencies because the department is governed by an appointed Board of Regents, not the governor’s office.

“SED and Regents is really the only agency he doesn’t control. … It drives him crazy. It drives every governor crazy,” State Sen. John Flanagan, who chairs the State Senate’s education committee, said after speaking at an Educators 4 Excellence event last month.

“I don’t see that happening. … I don’t want to give him that authority,” Flanagan said about Cuomo’s proposal to impose an evaluation system in New York City.

Instead, Flanagan said, legislators are motivated to push city and union officials to break their longstanding stalemate on evaluations. “I think it’s going to get resolved,” he said. “It may be ugly, but I think it’s going to get resolved.”

Since the Educators 4 Excellence event where Flanagan spoke, three weeks have passed without the city or union acknowledging any progress from behind closed doors. The city Department of Education did submit a plan to the State Education Department for how it would implement new evaluations once a system is adopted, but the plan did not address all of the details that the state had requested.

Educators 4 Excellence TV ad on teacher evaluations from GothamSchools on Vimeo.

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