If the city Department of Education and teacher unions do not agree on a new evaluation deal by Dec. 21, they may hope the Mayans were right about the apocalypse.
The city and the UFT have been in talks for over a year to set up a new teacher evaluation system, and now the deadline for it to get done is looming. If no agreement is reached, city schools could lose $250 million in state funding.
A plan for evaluating teachers needs to be set and submitted to the state by Jan. 17, which means a deal would need to be struck by the end of next week.
But the unions and the DOE do not appear to be anywhere close to a deal on a plan.
In an address at the Manhattan Institute on Dec. 5, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said loss of the funding could lead to smaller staff sizes and cancellation of after-school programs.
“Any cuts will undermine exactly what we are trying to achieve – providing meaningful support and development opportunities to our educators and rigorous instructional programming to our students,” Walcott said in the address.
He added that he spoke to UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the two sides have agreed to continue to negotiate as long as it takes to get a deal done before Dec. 21.
“After everything our schools, staff, students and families have been through this fall, they deserve a restful holiday break, free of worry about potential cuts to schools,” Walcott said.
At issue is the different ways the city and the union wants teachers to be evaluated. The UFT said the mayor’s plan would unfairly pass the blame on bad school management from the DOE onto teachers, while the city argues student performance should be a major part of evaluations.
The union further argues that student performance is often affected by external circumstances including family life and extracurricular activities such as sports out of the hands of his or her teacher.
“We’re not going to have an agreement until Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott stop playing politics with our schools. Rather than establishing bogus deadlines and threatening parents with the loss of teachers and services, they should be focusing on reaching an agreement that will actually help make the schools better,” Mulgrew said.
Gov. Cuomo has already worked out deals on evaluations for other school districts across the state.