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Cuomo won't force issue on teacher evals

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill into law tripling the tax credits available to companies specializing in postproduction, including film editing, visual effects, color correction, and sound editing and mixing. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

ALBANY - ALBANY -- Chances faded about as fast as they appeared Tuesday for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's bill to limit disclosure of teacher-evaluation ratings to parents only.

Cuomo's bill, introduced at midnight Monday, would permit parents and legal guardians to see ratings for individual teachers, but information for the public would be handled differently. It would require that schools put the ratings online -- but redact teachers' names.

Tuesday, the Democrat-led Assembly said it would approve the bill by Thursday, the day lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year, according to Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). He called the governor's proposal a "delicate balance."

But in the Republican-led Senate, Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) echoed a Cuomo comment that there's no hurry to pass it.

"Even the governor has indicated it's not time sensitive," Skelos said.

In order to have a vote by Thursday, Cuomo had to introduce the bill when he did to meet the required three-day waiting period between introducing and voting on a bill. He beat the deadline by minutes.

Tuesday, the governor said he took the action to make his position on the controversial issue clear, but that he was in no rush to reach an agreement. He noted that it will probably be two years before any teacher is rated under the new system, which was adopted just three months ago.

"If I had to bet at this point, I would say it doesn't pass," Cuomo said.

He added: "I wanted my position to be known. . . . My bill, I believe, is a fair balance" between parents' right to know and teachers' right to privacy.

Cuomo changed course more than once in a 24-hour span on what has become the most high-profile issue at the end of the legislative session.

Monday afternoon, the governor indicated during a radio interview there would be no last-minute rush on teacher evaluations. He said the topic was one of several outstanding issues that were "not urgent" and could be better resolved with more time.

Cuomo then turned around and introduced his bill at midnight Monday, fueling talk of a last-minute push, before making it clear Tuesday afternoon that he wouldn't force the issue.

Assembly members said they support the governor's proposal. "I think it strikes the right balance between teacher accountability and parents' need to know," said Assemb. Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern), who sponsors a bill to limit access to parents only.

Her bill, however, doesn't contain the provision that calls for the state Education Department to put information online with teachers' names redacted.

Of that part of Cuomo's proposal, she said: "I think that's inevitable, but as long as it doesn't contain the teachers' names, that's fair."

Lawmakers earlier this year approved a new teacher-evaluation system in which instructors and principals would be classified in categories such as "highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective."

But individual school districts must reach agreements with local teachers' unions to develop specific details that will make up the evaluations. The deadline for reaching those pacts is next spring.

With Ted Phillips

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