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N.Y.'s Cuomo Ties Funding Increase to New Teacher Evaluation Plan

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is attempting to kick-start his state's adoption of a new teacher-evaluation system—a move that potentially has big implications for his state's $700 million Race to the Top award.

Cuomo has seen New York's efforts to craft an evaluation system that ties teacher evaluation partly to student test scores subsumed by legal and political battles with unions. So when the governor unveiled his $132.5 billion state budget this week, he said he would link an increase in state aid to schools to districts' compliance with a new, statewide teacher-evaluation system.

To recap the situation: In 2010, New York lawmakers approved a new evaluation system that said that a portion of teachers' evaluation should be tied to student test scores. The state's Board of Regents adopted regulations last year to put the law in place. But the New York State United Teachers union sued to block those regulations, saying they went beyond what was intended in the law. A judge, in large part, agreed with the union's complaint, and the state is appealing.

But the teacher-evaluation law was considered a major piece of New York's winning $700 million plan in the federal Race to the Top competition. State officials have warned that if the issue isn't resolved, it could put the state's award in jeaporady—a concern echoed by Cuomo this week.

As part of his budget plan, Cuomo said that school districts will not be eligible for a boost in funding he's offering unless they have implemented the new teacher-evaluation process by Jan. 17, 2013. (See page 27 of the budget document.)

In order for that to happen, the state and the NYSUT would presumably need to reach an agreement. The governor said he would give the them 30 days to do so, or he will ask the legislature to approve a brand new teacher-evaluation law.

"I believe if we implement this system, the federal government will accept this and will not withdraw our Race to the Top money," Cuomo said in a speech outlining his plan. "The equation is simple at the end of the day—no evaluation, no money."

Yet Cuomo followed that by adding, "It's not just about losing $700 million. This is the way to reform education. Every state in the nation is doing it."

John King, the state education commissioner, welcomed the governor's announcement. A statement from his agency said the regulations adopted by the board were a "good starting point" for negotating with the statewide union.

The NYSUT said that position was "problematic" and voiced doubts about the governor's proposal.

The union "shares the governor's frustration over delays in implementing the evaluation law," said union president Richard C. Iannuzzi, but it believes "there are better ways to achieve implementation rather than tying it to funding increases that benefit students."

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