Jan. 17 is creeping up fast. That’s the drop-dead date for school districts to have a teacher evaluation plan in place if they don’t want to jeopardize any of their state aid. Buffalo is nowhere near ready, and there’s nothing new about that.
The deadline means a plan must be submitted to the state Education Department and approved by that date. Under the state law, any district that misses the deadline will lose this year’s increase in state aid.
Buffalo is on track to fail this critical task, risking as much as $33.4 million in state aid. And that failure would be a shameful result for the city’s students and teachers who care about them.
Most of the nearly 700 school districts in New York State had submitted evaluation plans to the state by last Friday. Look at Depew, where district officials and union leaders started getting their act together more than a year ago. The district submitted its plan to the state in July, and it was approved in October.
But in Buffalo, intransigence rules. The union and school district are at a stalemate, with the Buffalo Teachers Federation refusing to even talk about an evaluation. BTF President Philip Rumore is fuming over the involuntary transfer of a few dozen teachers and, until that completely unrelated dispute is resolved, he refuses to discuss teacher evaluations.
Instead of working with the district to accomplish what nearly every other district in the state has managed to do, the union has drawn a line in the sand. Except it’s the wrong one, and time is running out. The Appellate Court won’t hear the case on the teacher transfers until April, so unless the BTF gives up its harmful refusal to negotiate on teacher evaluations, the Jan. 17 deadline will be missed.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may or may not budge on the deadline. Perhaps statewide education groups will be successful in changing the deadline so that districts have to submit a plan by Jan. 17, with a decision coming later. Still, with the BTF refusing to sit down with the school district, even a softened deadline will be missed.
The loss of more than $33 million in funding for a school district in desperate shape is too big a risk to take. Rumore and district officials have said they believe the two sides would likely be able to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations fairly readily once they begin talking. The BTF needs to get back to work with the district on an acceptable teacher evaluation agreement while the separate transfer case winds it way through the courts.