The Buffalo, N.Y., school system says it will no longer honor a deal it had made with its teachers’ union not to dismiss educators based on new evaluations—but the union is pledging to fight to keep the deal alive.
In negotiations with the Buffalo Federation of Teachers about new teacher evaluations, called “annual professional performance reviews,” or APPRs, the Buffalo district agreed in a Jan. 15 memorandum of understanding that the reviews from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years would not negatively affect any teacher.
The state education department approved the district’s agreement with its union on the nature of the evaluations the same month—unaware of the district’s decision to hold teachers harmless from evaluation results.
However, the state law governing the reviews requires that the results of the evaluations from those years “be a significant factor for employment decisions including but not limited to, promotion, retention, tenure determination, termination, and supplemental compensation.”
In March, the state department notified the district that its side deal with the Buffalo union, an affiliate of both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, violated state law. Furthermore, the state said, that agreement could endanger millions of dollars in district funding, including an increase in state K-12 aid.
Buffalo Superintendent Pamela Brown has now said, in an April 25 statement, that the side deal with the 3,500-member union is void.
The 600,000-member New York State United Teachers has defended the Buffalo union, citing a memo from the department saying that a teacher with two consecutive “ineffective” ratings on the evaluations “may be ... considered for termination,” but doesn’t have to be dismissed.
In an interview, the Buffalo union’s president, Philip Rumore, said the union was exploring “every possible legal means” to fight the department’s interpretation of the law. He said he’s heard from the state union that hundreds of other New York districts have similar side deals.
“They’re hiding, because they don’t want to go through what we’re going through,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2013 edition of Education Week as Buffalo Battle Rages Over Evaluations