The city’s bid to “turn around” 33 struggling schools is politically motivated and should be quashed, according to the head of the city’s principals union.
The city is days away from submitting a formal request for State Education Commissioner John King to release millions of dollars in federal funding for the 33 schools even though the city has not yet negotiated new evaluations with the teachers union.
Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, sent a letter to King Tuesday urging him to reject the city’s request. Logan charges that the city’s announcement last month that it would abandon two in-process school improvement strategies, “transformation” and “restart,” was meant only to sidestep a requirement that the city negotiate with CSA and the United Federation of Teachers. Without an agreement, King froze federal funds to the schools last month.
“Simply stated, if the Turnaround model were the most educationally sound plan of intervention for the 33 schools, it would have been selected for any or all of them in 2010 and 2011,” Logan writes. “It was not. It is being proposed now only as a means of evading the … evaluation requirements.”
The city is required to negotiate new evaluations in order to receive federal funds and, in a plan Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month, additional state school aid. But Cuomo also said he would push changes to the state’s 2010 evaluation law if districts do not adopt new evaluations by mid-month. City officials are lobbying legislators to take that route, even though a statewide teachers union, NYSUT, has said it is on the verge of agreement for nearly all districts other than New York City.
In his letter, Logan argues that turnaround, which requires some principals and half of teachers to be replaced, would undo gains the schools have started to show since receiving federal improvement funds.
“The one step forward these schools have taken through the transformation and restart reforms will move two steps backward with the disruption resulting from the turnaround requirements,” he writes.
Logan also raises questions that have vexed principals, teachers, and members of the public: How can the city afford a plan that could land nearly 2,000 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, where they will draw full salaries while working as substitutes? Since the city is technically closing the schools, how can the schools remain eligible for federal funds meant to help existing schools improve? And since the state froze the schools’ federal funds because the city and union could not agree on new evaluations, why should it release the funds when new evaluations are still not in place?
The city’s formal applications for the funds are due Feb. 10 and must detail the costs and benefits for each school. King has said that it would take several weeks for the state to review the applications but that the city’s plan is “approvable.”
The deadline that Cuomo set for districts to settle on new evaluations falls between when the city’s turnaround applications are due and when King will approve or reject them.
Logan’s complete letter to King is below.