NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Talks between the teachers union and New York City over a teacher evaluation program have gone nowhere and the U.S.  Education Department has warned the city that its fight over implementing tougher teacher evaluation systems threatens hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid.

State Education Department Commissioner John B. King last week suspended aid to 10 school districts including New York City where local officials couldn’t agree with their teachers’ and principals’ unions on new evaluation systems.

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New York won $696 million last year in federal Race to the Top funds aimed at forcing reforms to improve instruction. One was to create a better system of weeding out poorly performing teachers and principals.

Although New York committed to that reform and others, the evaluations must be approved in local collective bargaining.

The New York State United Teachers has sued over the systems that include using student test performance. That case remains in court.

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The union wants teachers deemed unsatisfactory to be able to appeal to independent reviewers.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is unimpressed.

“The resolution is very simple. Agree to a real teacher evaluation system which is what was required by the law and I thought everybody in good faith said, and it’s not gonna have a third party in it,” said Bloomberg on Tuesday.

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The mayor said the evaluations should be done by the principals, period.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a report to be released Tuesday that New York has made progress. But the road block in implementing reforms means New York can choose to either be  “a national leader or a laggard.”

But he warned that backtracking will cost New York schools hundreds of millions of dollars.

The federal Race to the Top funding has been seen as critical for New York schools in part because it comes as state aid is declining.

The report notes that New York is “committed to creating a statewide system of highly effective schools,” but the dispute over the teacher and principal evaluation must be resolved.

Does the mayor think he’ll have to recommend teacher layoffs in this year’s budget?

“I don’t think we’ll need them, although I’m counting on the governor to give more money for education than we got last year,” said Bloomberg.

The mayor added that if they got cut back more, it would be very difficult.

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