ALBANY, N.Y. – A handful of New York school districts have secret deals in place with their local teachers unions to protect educators who receive bad job reviews.
The Democrat and Chronicle reports the Buffalo, Rome, Oneida County and Greece Central school districts have “side agreements” that guarantee there will be no penalties for teachers who receive poor job evaluations during the current school year.
State leaders say the side agreements – sometimes referred to as “memos of understanding” – directly contradict a 2012 New York education law that requires districts to begin using tougher teacher evaluation plans. A key part of the new evaluation system is that tenured teachers can be fired after two consecutive years of ineffective ratings, the Democrat and Chronicle reports.
Under the terms of the new law, school districts were required to submit their new teacher evaluation plans to the state for approval. Since the state signed off on the districts’ evaluation plans without being aware of the side deals, the plans are now null and void, New York officials say.
State officials also warned district leaders that their schools risk losing a portion of their state aid if the side deals aren’t disregarded.
A spokeswoman for the Greece Central School District defended the practice, claiming it does not “circumvent” the new law and is only meant to ensure that teachers are being treated fairly during the initial transition to the more demanding evaluation process.
In Buffalo, the head of the local teachers union also defended the side agreement as an issue of fairness.
“We agreed with the district and they agreed with us … that we wouldn’t use the teacher evaluations against them,” said Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore. “I don’t know what the hoopla is about, because it’s only fair.”
Thankfully Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t agree with such soft-headed thinking. During a recent radio interview, Cuomo addressed the Buffalo controversy.
“But if – if – (Buffalo) made a side deal that was contrary to what they certified to the state, that’s right on the line of being fraud in the ethical, and possibly legal, sense,” Cuomo said, according to the news site.
While the governor was only addressing the Buffalo controversy, his words could apply to the other districts, as well.
The only reason anything is known about these side deals is because dedicated journalists have used open records laws to ferret them out.
That means there could be many more sweetheart deals that the state doesn’t yet know about.
This controversy should lead journalists, taxpayers and parents to ask an obvious question: Why would a school board agree to cut a secret deal with the union that prolongs an ineffective teacher’s presence in the classroom?
The answer is that a number of local teacher unions have succeeded in electing union-friendly candidates to local school boards. That means those board members are basically union operatives who want to craft district policies to protect the financial needs of employees instead of the academic needs of students.
Citizens who vote in local school elections should take note of this sickening development and be careful to scrutinize the candidates they support.
Article written by Ben Velderman at EAGNews.org