Back in January, the New York state commissioner education froze federal School Improvement Grant funding for 10 districts, saying they had not complied with the promises they made in order to get that money. Specifically, John B. King Jr. said, the districts had not revamped their teacher and principal evaluation processes to the satisfaction of state officials. (My colleague Andrew Ujifusa wrote a great story in March about the challenge in putting together these evaluation agreements.)
Over the months since that decision, eight districts have had their money restored—all but the 37,000-student Buffalo school system, which is now planning to challenge the legality of the state's move to withhold $5.6 million in improvement grant funds. (New York City opted not to pursue the money.)
The Buffalo News wrote that interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon and three other administrators were headed to Albany for a hearing today. In the meantime, some members of the community urged school officials to take a harder line with the Buffalo Teachers Federation, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
In an April report to his members, the president of the union, Philip Rumore, says that King is the one putting up hurdles in front of the union and the district, which have submitted three revisions to the plan that was rejected by the state back in January. One major sticking point is that the union does not want the progress of students absent more than 20 percent of the year to be taken into account when evaluating teachers, but the state has refused to accept an agreement that has that stipulation. The battle now clearly seems to be between Rumore and King.
The Buffalo News created a live blog of the day's events. The superintendent told the paper she believes the case is "winnable." Is she right? Or will the state continue to take a hard line on these funds? Stay tuned...