State Education Commissioner Questions Union President

May 17, 2012 Updated May 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Kendra Eaglin

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May 17, 2012 Updated May 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) New York State Education Commissioner, John King, wants to know why Buffalo Teachers Federation President, Phil Rumore, won't sign an agreement on teacher evaluations.

The stalemate has left the Buffalo Board of Education scrambling to find other ways to qualify for state aid.

King was in town Wednesday holding a press conference with New York State of Education Department Regent Robert Bennett.

"This whole process is not a negotiation it's are you complying with the law," said Bennett.

The deadlines have come and gone and now the issue of whether Buffalo's worst schools will get $5.6 million in aid for the 2011-2012 school year lies with an appeals officer in Albany.

The controversial sticking point is teacher evaluations, and how those evaluations will be weighed when it comes to chronically absent students, English language learners and special education students.

"Making students take standardized tests and brutalizing them when they don't speak the language, when they're emotionally disturbed, when they have learning disabilities, and unless somebody has seen a child have to take one of these tests they would never ever want to do it again," said Rumore.

"The state's position is attendance can be adjusted for as a factor in the evaluation system but we shouldn't render students invisible," said King.

King also says the state's student growth measures have been adjusted to account for the so-called at-risk populations but doesn't let schools off the hook.

"When you visit schools around the state, some of our low performing schools and you see a lack of rigor and instruction, you see a lack of student engagement, you see classes that aren't providing students with inspiration about learning, you come to understand that school does play a role in whether or not students attend," said King.

Expecting that this debate is far from over Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon suggested the Buffalo School Board change their school improvement plans for Lafayette High, East High and B.E.S.T. schools to qualify for the money.

Rumore says he has scheduled five meetings with teachers in the next several weeks to try and work something out.

However, the decision from the appeals officer in Albany will be the final say on whether the money for the 2011-2012 school year will be lost for good.