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Queens Chronicle

Mayor in Albany, pleads for lost school funds

Wants Legislature to keep Cuomo from witholding education money

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:07 am, Thu Feb 7, 2013.

Mayor Bloomberg wants the state Legislature to change the law so the state cannot deny education funds to city schools if the city and teachers unions fail to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations.

Testifying in front of a state legislative committee in Albany on Monday, he asked legislators to change state law to prevent Gov. Cuomo’s office from withholding school aid, calling the procedure “irrational.”

The governor said the city will lose $250 million in school funding because the Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers failed to reach an agreement on a teacher evaluations plan by midnight Jan. 17.

Placing the blame for the failure of a deal squarely on the UFT, Bloomberg said the loss of state aid would hurt students the worst.

“Do not punish our schoolchildren for the obstructionism of the UFT,” he told the Assembly Education Committee. “They have done nothing wrong.”

The deal failed because the city and the unions disagreed on two sticking points — a provision that would sunset the deal in 2015 and another that allowed for more arbitration for grievances filed by terminated teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg said both provisions would make any deal “a sham,” although most of the deals struck with other school districts in the state had a sunset provision. The mayor slammed those plans, and said he would not accept one like those in the city.

The UFT said the Bloomberg administration had agreed to both provisions, but balked on Jan. 17, only hours before the deadline. That allegation is backed by State Education Commissioner John King, who said last week he was under the impression both provisions were agreed to by both sides.

Bloomberg’s assertions caught the ire of the committee’s chairwoman, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood).

“How can you not accept some responsibility for this disaster?” Nolan asked Bloomberg at the hearing. “Forty percent of students in this state are going to be punished because the adults couldn’t work things out.”

Bloomberg’s request to recoup the lost money from the governor has gotten some support from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Though Silver has not come out to support the idea publicly, Bloomberg praised his support at the hearing.

Cuomo said last week that he would not entertain requests to give the city the $250 million in lost aid. However, in a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, King said the city could still receive some or all of $200 million in grants — some or all of which would come from federal Race To The Top funding — if the city and UFT agree on a teacher evaluations deal by Feb. 18.

But at the hearing, Bloomberg expressed doubt that his administration and the UFT would find common ground.

“I said it was unlikely that unions would ever agree to an evaluations plan,” he told Nolan. “I should have said ‘impossible.’”

Bloomberg said without the funding, 700 teachers will be lost through attrition this year and an additional 1,800 next year.

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