The Buffalo Public Schools stand to lose $58.7 million – some of it earmarked for the district’s lowest-performing schools – if the district cannot work out a teacher-evaluation plan with its union soon, Superintendent Pamela C. Brown told the School Board on Wednesday night.
“Buffalo does not have an approved plan,” she said. “So there’s a dollar cost associated with that. The state Education Department has tied millions of dollars of funding to each district’s successful negotiation of an approved evaluation plan.”
She appealed to the Buffalo Teachers Federation to return to the negotiating table to work out a plan that the state will approve. “It’s time to think about what’s the right thing to do,” she said. “There’s too much at stake here for the children and the staff and everyone in the City of Buffalo.”
The governor has said that all districts must have a state-approved plan in place by Jan. 17, 2013, or forfeit this year’s increase in state aid. For Buffalo schools, that works out to $33.4 million.
In addition to that money, another $25.3 million in various grant funds is contingent on the evaluation plan, Brown said. That includes $17 million in school improvement funds.
If the district loses $58.7 million, the superintendent said, the results would be “devastating,” resulting in significant layoffs, although she said she did not know exactly how many.
The union’s governing body, the council of delegates, in late September voted to halt negotiations until the district drops its court case regarding the 53 teachers it involuntarily transferred out of three schools this year as part of improvement plans.
An arbitrator has ruled that the transfers violated the contract, and a State Supreme Court justice upheld the ruling. The district last week filed an appeal.
The district submitted a 2012-13 teacher-evaluation plan in early July, meeting the state Education Department’s deadline, but the state rejected it, largely because it awards teachers too many points based on the number of students who have disabilities, don’t speak English as their native language, or are chronically absent.
Because of those extra points, it would be impossible for some teachers to ever be rated ineffective, according to both the superintendent and union President Philip Rumore.
School Board members voted unanimously Wednesday to send a letter to Rumore urging the BTF to return to the negotiating table.
“What’s happening here is unacceptable to this district,” said Sharon Belton-Cottman, who represents the Ferry District. “This board is basically helpless at this point because we are being held hostage.”
Ralph R. Hernandez of the West District was the only member to express concerns about crossing the union. “We have to continue to work as hard as we possibly can without violating those agreements,” he said. “… If you violate a contractual agreement and you end up in court, you lose.”