Dear Commons Community,
Here in New York we have been privileged to observe the negotiations between the City of New York and its teachers union the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for the past year or so over the thorny issue of evaluations. The deadline for state education officials to approve any teacher evaluation plan submitted by the city was last night at midnight; missing it would cost the city approximately $250 million in education aid from Albany that it budgeted for in June and would make it ineligible for roughly $200 million in state and federal grants. Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Michael Mulgrew, the president of the UFT held separate news conferences to say the talks had disintegrated during a middle-of-the-night negotiating session in Manhattan. No further talks have been scheduled. The New York Times reported:
“In New York, each side blamed the other for the breakdown and accused the other of hurling falsehoods. But what was clear was that the inability to reach an agreement, even with so much money as an incentive, was another sign of how frayed the relationship between the mayor and the city’s unions had become. The announcement came on the second day of a yellow-bus strike — the first in 34 years — that was called by the main bus drivers’ union, forcing more than 100,000 children, many of them with special needs, to find new ways to get to school.
In a statement, Mr. Mulgrew referred to the strike: “Thousands of parents have gotten a lesson this week, as the mayor’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach has left thousands of schoolchildren stranded at curbs across the city by the school bus strike. That same stubborn attitude on the mayor’s part now means that our schools will suffer a loss of millions of dollars in state aid.”
The Times comment that the Mayor’s relationship with the unions is “frayed” is an understatement particularly with regard to the UFT. Mayor Bloomberg has done a lot of good things for the City during his tenure but working with and supporting the teachers in the public schools has not been one of them. His appointment of Joel Klein as school chancellor who relished confrontation and who from the start engaged in teacher bashing and “them against us” attitude poisoned any chance of a working relationship.
There may still be some time to resolve the teacher evaluation issue in that the deadline was strictly an administrative one established by Governor Andrew Cuomo and he probably can extend it with a little prodding.