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Latest dispute with UFT could cost city $15 million in grants

UPDATE (7:30 p.m.): The deadline for the city Department of Education to submit a grant application to the State Education Department came and went with no signature from union president Michael Mulgrew. Read our update here.

The Department of Education has until 5:00 p.m. to get Michael Mulgrew’s signature for a grant application that could bring in as much as $15 million in funding for professional development and other teacher training resources.

Today is the deadline for districts to apply to New York’s Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Grants, a $72 million pot of money from the state’s $700 million in Race to the Top winnings. The grants are designed to encourage districts to develop policies to better retain and reward teachers — often through higher pay — who receive top ratings on their evaluations.

Some of the grants were finalized earlier this year, but a second round totals $49 million, 30 percent of which — or $15 million — New York City qualifies for.

Applications require sign-off from the teachers union, but city education officials accused United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew  on Sunday afternoon of ambushing the process to secure unrelated job benefits. They said that a final offer was rejected by union leaders on Thursday evening.

“By refusing to sign the grant and inserting unrelated issues at the eleventh hour, the UFT is once again hurting the students and schools of New York City,” Walcott said in a statement on Sunday.

City officials said they already offered some concessions to the union as part of negotiations over the grant, including a request that the proposal allot more money that went directly to schools for professional development. But they said the union also wanted reduced paper work, a persistent gripe that both teachers and principals say have taken away from their ability to focus on instructional practice.

Adam Ross, UFT’s lawyer, called the paper work “an endless stream of paper that serves no instructional purpose,” according to The Post.

The latest labor dispute threatens to cost the city millions in state and federal funding and would represent another setback for New York City schools, which have lost out on funding incentives in recent years due to its failure to negotiate an evaluation system. The city is already planning for a $250 million reduction in state aid funding because it missed a deadline to implement its teacher evaluation system earlier this year. It also could lose another $40 million in federal school improvement grants, though the city has asked to recoup a portion of that sum.

The city is finally implementing a teacher evaluation plan after Commissioner John King imposed one last month, a development that was supposed to open the door of eligibility for grants such as the STLE funds.

The grants seek to spur districts to rethink how teachers are paid, which is currently determined primarily by years of experience and through earning higher education and profession development credits. The current round of grants ask districts to develop “career ladder” programs for top teachers and require that evaluation ratings be considered for any pay raises, a policy that unions have long opposed.

The city is currently moving forward with plans to rollout a similar grant program, a $53 million teacher incentive program, which is funded federally. That grant, which also links compensation to teacher evaluations, also required UFT approval.

In response to Walcott’s comments, UFT President Michael Mulgrew blamed the city for the stalled talks, saying that education officials declined to negotiate over the weekend.

“This is just another example of DOE incompetence,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “We told the DOE we would work through the weekend, but because their staff is on vacation and various other reasons, they can’t meet. So now they declare defeat and try to shift blame.”

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which has a better relationship with the city, has signed off on the grants, a city spokeswoman said.