The UFT has filed legal papers with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to declare impasse in the negotiations between the UFT and the NYC Department of Education (DOE) over a teacher evaluation system for schools that had been placed in the Transformation and Restart models of school improvement. We have charged the DOE with walking away from the negotiations that they were required to complete in good faith by the agreement they had signed with the UFT last June. Further, since the DOE has explicitly refused to negotiate an appeals system, with repeated statements to the UFT in negotiations that they would never overturn a supervisor’s rating on an issue of substance — a stance confirmed by the 99.5% rate at which they currently turn down U rating appeals — they are in direct violation of state education law which requires a substantive appeals process. If PERB declares impasse, as we have reason to believe they will, the NYC DOE will be forced back to the negotiations table to complete the process they agreed to undertake last June.
On the morning of Jan. 13 the DOE sent teams to Transformation and Restart schools, and to other PLA schools which had not as yet been placed in any School Improvement model, announcing its intentions to close your schools, and to impose by fiat a new evaluation system that could be used to remove half of your staff and your principal. In his State of the City address on Jan. 12, Mayor Bloomberg said that he believed there was a loophole in state law that would allow him to take such steps without negotiating it with the UFT. Our UFT lawyers have carefully examined the laws and regulations the mayor is invoking, and we do not see any grounds for the view that the DOE has the legal authority to take such unilateral action. If and when the DOE begins the legal process for closing your schools, the UFT will be immediately taking the appropriate legal action to stop it.
For ten years now, the policies of Mayor Bloomberg and of Chancellors Joel Klein, Cathie Black and Dennis Walcott have failed the public schools and students of New York City, with a particularly heavy toll falling on those with the greatest needs. Your schools have been on the front lines of these failures. Over the last two years, you were told that as PLA schools, you would receive additional funds, resources and supports to help you improve. Those promises have proven hollow, as the mayor and the Department of Education have done next to nothing to fix your schools. All that they can fix is blame, in an increasingly desperate and shrill attempt to evade responsibility and accountability for their failures.
It is sad that the mayor and the chancellor would do clear and manifest harm to your schools and your students in order to serve their political agenda. But they will not succeed. In this battle, the entire 200,000 membership of the UFT is behind you. And whenever the welfare of our schools and our students is threatened, as it is now, we will not rest until that threat has been defeated.