By JOSEPH SPECTOR
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned schools Monday that he will propose his own teacher evaluation system on Thursday if school districts and unions can't reach a deal.
Cuomo has been telling schools and the New York State United Teachers union that he would include in his 30-day budget amendments a new system to evaluate teacher performance if the sides didn't come up with their own agreement.
The 30-day amendments -- which are changes to the governor's proposed budget that was released Jan. 17 -- are due Thursday.
"If you don't have it done by the time I amend the budget, I'll put in my own evaluation system because it's taken two years," Cuomo said on the public-radio show The Capitol Pressroom.
The teachers' union said it was working with the state Education Department on a new evaluation system. The sides said they were hopeful that they could reach a deal before Thursday.
"Meetings and discussions continue," NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said. "We are hopeful that a settlement can be reached before Thursday's deadline."
State Education Commissioner John King said negotiations were ongoing.
"There's nothing new to report, but we continue to have productive conversations and I remain optimistic," King said Monday.
NYSUT and the state Education Department agreed two years ago to legislation that would reform teacher evaluations, in part by tying in student performance on standardized tests.
Legislation adopted in 2010 helped New York secure nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top money.
The law took effect this school year for teachers in grades 4-8 and their building principals. It will cover all teachers and principals in the 2012-13 school year, which starts July 1.
Many school districts have yet to agree on all details of the system with teachers' unions, and NYSUT is in court trying to block some of the law from taking hold. The federal government is also threatening to withhold the $700 million if New York doesn't get the evaluation system up and running.
"I'm hopeful that they'll come to some agreement, but I want to know exactly what's in the proposal" by Cuomo if no deal is reached by Thursday, said Senate Education Committee chairman John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County.
Cuomo wants the 2010 law scrapped. He is calling for a law that puts more weight on student test scores in evaluating teachers. He is also proposing to tie $250 million in state aid to teacher evaluations.
Cuomo said his plan would "be more straightforward. It's a very complicated law right now."
The state Board of Regents has proposed that 20 percent of teacher evaluations be based on student tests and 20 percent on locally developed measures. Cuomo has indicated he wants 40 percent based on standardized tests, among other changes.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the 2010 law was a fair compromise between the state and the unions, pointing out that the law won New York the $700 million in the Race to the Top competitive grant program.
But Silver said he would seek to work with Cuomo and unions on a new law.
"I think the evaluation system in the 2010 law is clear. It's a matter of how it is implemented, how people in good faith come to an agreement on what's in it and what's not in it," he said. "I'm hopeful that the governor can give that impetus during his talks."