New York City and its teachers union are stuck in their negotiations over a new teacher evaluation system, jeopardizing $450 million in state aid if they have not reached a deal in less than two weeks.
Formal talks have disintegrated in the last month. Before the new year, the city filed a complaint with the state labor board accusing the union, the United Federation of Teachers, of trying to "extort" the city. And on Friday, the union began a television advertisement campaign charging that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was "going after teachers again."
"The attack ad is the latest proof that they would rather forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for kids than negotiate a real evaluation system," Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said on Friday.
The city public school system is one of a small number of districts in New York that have yet to submit teacher evaluation plans to the state before the Jan. 17 deadline.
If it cannot meet the deadline, the city is to lose an increase of roughly 4 percent in state aid that was approved by Albany last year, about $250 million, along with $200 million worth of grants.
Larger classes, fewer teachers and cuts to professional development, support staff and after-school programs could all follow a loss of aid, the city said.
The issue dates to 2010, when Gov. David A. Paterson signed a law -- since strengthened -- that was used to persuade the Obama administration to award the state a nearly $700 million Race to the Top grant. The law required school districts to replace their old evaluation systems -- which were usually simple marks of "satisfactory" and, rarely, "unsatisfactory."
Under the latest version of the law, the new system would rate all teachers as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective, and teachers rated ineffective for two consecutive years would be subject to an expedited removal process that could result in them losing their jobs, said John B. King Jr., the state's education commissioner.
Twenty percent of the ratings are to be based on students' growth on state tests. Another 20 percent are to be based on local measures, bargained with the union. Of the remaining 60 percent, classroom observations must be a majority of the criteria, but student surveys can be included.
The districts and the unions must choose the local measures and decide how many observations, including at least one unannounced classroom visit, to require, and whether to incorporate other elements in the 60 percent category.
"Ultimately, the goal of the evaluation system is to improve student achievement through high-quality, differentiated professional development," Mr. King said, reflecting worries that the discussion on teacher evaluations too often focuses on the small number of ineffective teachers, rather than the broader goal of improving instruction.
Neither city officials nor the union would discuss the remaining roadblocks to a deal last week, but their e-mails and filings give a sense of what they have been fighting over.
An e-mail on Dec. 18 from the union president, Michael Mulgrew, to the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, said the union would not discuss the substance of teacher evaluations unless a deal was reached on how the evaluations might be rolled out for all the city's teachers.
Then, on Dec. 27, the city filed a complaint of an improper labor practice with the state's Public Employment Relations Board. Not only was the union failing to bargain in good faith, the complaint said, but its "strong-arm tactics" included trying to "extort" a deal on topics unrelated to teacher evaluations -- in essence holding the process "hostage."
According to the city, the union, which has not had a contract since 2009, wanted the promise of a pay increase as a condition of agreeing to an evaluation system, as well as a reduction in paperwork for teachers, and earlier notice of which schools the city planned to phase out for poor performance.
In a sober-toned response to the city on Thursday, Mr. Mulgrew called the allegations a "serious misunderstanding" of the union's position and the law; he argued that the teachers' contract, by law, must address the evaluation system, so it was fair to tie the two together. Mr. Mulgrew closed his two-page letter by asking the city to "withdraw its meritless charge so that discussions between the parties may continue unfettered with the hope that agreement can be reached by the Jan. 17 deadline."
The new advertisement campaign, which is running on local TV stations and which a union spokesman said cost $1.2 million, features a high school senior, Ashlyn, who was in the first grade when Mr. Bloomberg was in his first year in office, in 2002.
"And while she's changed a lot," the ad says, "he hasn't."
For 30 seconds, it criticizes the mayor's stewardship of the public education system -- showing headlines of some low points, including the short-lived appointment of Cathleen P. Black as chancellor -- and accuses him of going after teachers instead of helping to improve schools.
"It's time for the mayor to put politics aside," the ad says, "and agree to a fair evaluation system that gives teachers the support they need to help kids succeed."
Mr. Mulgrew said in an interview that it would be "fine" to come to agreement with Mr. Bloomberg on the issue, but that he hoped to have a better relationship with the next mayor.
On Friday, on his weekly radio show, Mr. Bloomberg, who reiterated how education was his "signature issue," said: "What's the next mayor going to do? Print money?"
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.