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UFT and City Hall bicker over evaluation fallout

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 2/13/2013, 1:08 p.m.
It's been a week since negotiations over the new teacher evaluation system fell through, but...
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It's been a week since negotiations over the new teacher evaluation system fell through, but the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and City Hall are continuing to point the finger at each other.

"I am sorry to announce that I have notified Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and other state officials that despite long nights of negotiation and a willingness on the part of teachers to meet the DOE halfway, the intransigence of the Bloomberg administration on key issues has made it impossible to reach agreement on a new teacher evaluation system," wrote UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a statement last Thursday. "It is particularly painful to make this announcement because last night, our negotiators had reached agreement, but Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg blew the deal up in the early hours today, and despite the involvement of state officials, we could not put it back together."

However, the city fired back, stating that the UFT wanted the agreement to end on June of 2015. To New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and company, that wasn't acceptable.

"That condition would essentially render the entire agreement meaningless," said Bloomberg, commenting on the situation last Thursday. "That's because the process of removing an ineffective teacher requires two years--that's correct, two years' time--to get an ineffective teacher out of the classroom, and if the agreement sunsets in two years, the whole thing would be a joke."

According to Bloomberg, the date that the union set--on top of demanding an increase in the arbitration hearings for teachers who file grievances during the evaluation process--wouldn't allow the city to move ineffective teachers out as quickly as they pleased.

"Nobody would ever be able to be removed, the law would be gone before the process could finish. It would essentially sabotage the entire agreement," said Bloomberg. "This popped up last night sometime between midnight and 3 in the morning, when the negotiations ended."

If both parties had reached a deal on new teacher evaluations on Jan. 17, New York City's public schools would've received an almost 4 percent increase ($250 million) in state aid already approved by Albany last year in addition to $200 million in grants.

According to the UFT, a deal was reached at around 3 a.m. on Jan. 17. When Schools Commissioner Dennis Walcott went back to City Hall to help finalize the deal, the UFT said that the return answer was "no." City officials said that a deal was never reached during last-hour negotiations and blamed the union for the breakdown in talks. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Bloomberg said he'd be willing to go back to the negotiating table, but he still put the blame on the unions.

"I'm disappointed because they have blocked our teachers from having the kind of useful feedback and accountability that is helping teachers--and children--in other parts of the country," said Bloomberg. Mulgrew sent an emailed release as soon as Bloomberg's comments reached him.

"Welcome to Bloombergland. Most people would be embarrassed that the state's highest education official has directly contradicted their statements about a new teacher evaluation system. But not the mayor," Mulgrew said. "He's gone from 'my way or the highway' to 'I am always right and everyone else is wrong.' And people wonder why negotiations haven't been successful."