Even without evaluation agreement, LAUSD may not lose $171 million
Vanessa Romo | March 27, 2015
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Despite claims by Superintendent Ramon Cortines that LA Unified could lose $171 million in federal funding without an agreement with the teachers union on a teacher evaluation system, state officials say the money may not be at risk, at all.
For weeks, Cortines has urged UTLA to accept a proposal with a three-level overall teacher evaluation system — one of several conditions of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver program, that provides federal funding and allows districts to sidestep No Child Left Behind requirements. A two-level system had been in place through the 2012-2013 school year.
The deadline to submit the new CORE Waiver application is just days away, March 31.
But Hilary McLean, communications director for CORE, says the absence of an agreement on a three-tier system is not a deal breaker. Even without an agreement, “we believe that LAUSD will be in a position to submit an application,” she told LA School Report.
“This is also a somewhat iterative process,” McLean added, explaining that even after the district plans are submitted, “CORE is constantly in communication with the Department of Education so even as we meet certain deadlines on the calendar, we continue sharing information for their review purposes.”
The district will submit a proposal regardless of whether it can strike a deal with UTLA. But Cortines said in a statement today, “I think it’s important we do this together…It’s more powerful if we do it together.”
Teacher evaluations have been part of the current contract negotiations between the district and the union, which are now in the hands of a federal mediator who is not scheduled to meet with the sides again until April 6 and April 15.
Cortines addressed the issue in a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, earlier this month, writing that the “only obstacle to full compliance…is the long-standing contractual agreement with UTLA that provides only two levels of overall final performance evaluation.”
In 2013, LA Unified imposed a new four-level system, but the union objected, arguing that such a system created a path to establish merit pay to reward the highest performing teachers. The union took the issue to the labor board, and a PERB judge agreed with UTLA that the district acted unlawfully and ordered the two sides to renegotiate the terms.
Despite that order, the sides have never reached agreement.
While LA Unified and five other California schools districts that are seeking the CORE waiver are compiling their own data for a proposal, they are all submitted by CORE as a bundle. The other districts are Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Ana, and LA Unified.
The proposals are delivered at the same time, and McLean said the U.S. Department of Education assesses each application individually “so if one is not accepted it does not affect the others.”