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Queens Chronicle

Gov. Cuomo can't withhold school aid, court says

City lost $250M when DOE, UFT failed to reach teacher evaluation agreement

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Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 12:21 pm | Updated: 5:22 pm, Mon Feb 25, 2013.

A state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan blocked Gov. Cuomo from holding back $250 million in state education aid as punishment for the city and teachers unions failing to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations by the governor's Jan. 17 deadline.

In his ruling Thursday evening, Judge Manuel Mendez said the move would hurt students, who had no say in the teacher evaluations process. 

“Innocent students that had no influence over the legislative process or negotiations were potentially placed at risk academically,” he wrote, noting that the governor has threatened to impose an evaluations plan himself by the summer. Cuomo said earlier this week that he would introduce legislation to take control over implementing a system in the city himself and have it ready by June 1. 

The ruling is just a preliminary injunction as a lawsuit against the state initiated by parents makes its way through the courts, but it means the governor cannot withhold the aid until a decision is reached. Cuomo vowed to appeal the ruling. 

The governor had given a Jan. 17 deadline for the state's roughly 700 school districts to come up with teacher evaluation systems. All but five statewide did; one of the five being New York City.

The Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers have hit an impasse over a teacher evaluations plan, with the two main sticking points being a potential sunset clause and the number of arbitration appeals a teacher is entitled to after being removed. 

Peter Kadushin, a spokesman for the UFT, said the union was reviewing the decision. At the same time, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said the city agreed that children shouldn't shoulder the burden of the failed negotiations, but placed blame on the UFT for that. 

"We've said all along that students should not be penalized for the UFT's failure to negotiate, and our goal has been and continues to be a fair and effective evaluation system," Wolfson said Thursday. 

The suit was brought by attorney Michael Rebell, on behalf of dozens of public school parents and was filed on Feb. 5. 

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