After the sweetness-and-nice between New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to win $700 million from the federal Race to the Top fund last year (see my Education Next story), NYSUT yesterday sued the state’s Board of Regents and NYSED’s acting commissioner John King over the decision last May to ratchet up the importance of student test scores in a teacher’s annual evaluation.
Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union, says it’s the first time in four decades that NYSUT has sued the Regents, which isn’t surprising since NYSUT is used to getting its way (see this 2008 NYSUT victory pronouncement). According to Karlin, “NYSUT initially agreed to a plan in which improvement in state-issued tests would count for 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. But that was later increased to 40 percent, which NYSUT contends came out of the blue.”
The union’s precipitous fall from grace was made painfully apparent when even the Democratic Governor, traditionally a NYSUT ally, weighed in on the matter. In fact, Andrew Cuomo helped move the student score needle up, writing in a letter to the Regents just before their May vote, “This change would ensure that greater balance is struck between using objective teacher evaluation measures…and subjective teacher evaluation measures.”
In a press release from the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, Jason Brooks calls the suit “an act of desperation”:
The state legislative session has ended and NYSUT doesn’t have anything it can boast of to its members. It lost on preventing school funding cuts, it lost on increasing state taxes, it lost when its member teachers showed a compassionate willingness to make contract concessions to save the jobs of their peers and programs for their students, and it lost on its attempts to defeat the long-awaited and desperately needed property tax cap… Evidently, NYSUT believes that the last place it can look for friends is behind the judge’s bench.
This being New York, with union dues still rolling in, you can’t count NYSUT out.