Buffalo Teachers Refuse State Guidelines

March 8, 2012 Updated Mar 8, 2012 at 10:16 AM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

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March 8, 2012 Updated Mar 8, 2012 at 10:16 AM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) The Buffalo Teachers Federation voted to exclude student's scores from teacher evaluations if the student did not attend school at least 80 percent of the year. The problem is, the state says all student's scores should be a factor regardless of the child's attendance.

But teachers argue they can't do their job if students don't show up for class. That's why they don't want students with poor attendance to have their scores count towards their teacher evaluations even though it means forfeiting $9.3 million in federal money for low performing schools in the district.

"It's not our job to wake children up and bring them to school. We teach children to come to school, it's the parents job to have kids come to school what are we going to do? Pick them up and carry them to school now? No, it's not going to happen," said Clark Nelman, a Buffalo Public School teacher.

President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Phil Rumore had this statement after Wednesday night's vote,

"It is not the teachers that are withholding this money. It is the state education department that has made this unrealistic and I think immoral and illegal decision to withhold the money. It's not us that are withholding that money."

In order to qualify for that money the state is demanding that all students scores be included in teachers evaluations regardless of their attendance.

Under the current evaluation system the student scores make up 20 percent of a teacher's evaluations, a majority, 60 percent is based on in class observation.

Still, teachers didn't budge.

"We're in a tough situation. Do you count a student who is absent at a high rate against a teacher and hold that against a teacher in their evaluation and possibly hold it under their job? At the same time the state wants every child to count equally," said Michael Vacanti, a Buffalo school teacher.

Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon and board President Lou Petrucci wrote letters urging the teachers union to comply with the state's request.

Dixon says increasing student attendance is a problem to be solved not an issue up for negotiations. The board warned the union that forfeiting the money could lead to dozens of teacher layoffs.

"We've got kids we need to educate today and we need this money today and we have done everything we can as a district, the kids haven't done anything wrong, we need them money," said John Licata, school board member at large.

Dixon says the district is already making progress in improving attendance by rehiring attendance teachers and joining with local and national groups on a new attendance improvement pilot.