By Victor Skinner

YONKERS, N.Y. – Union resistance to improving teacher evaluations in Yonkers schools could cost the district $9.5 million and force hundreds of teacher layoffs.

The Yonkers Federation of Teachers and district officials have roughly a week to submit a new teacher performance evaluation plan to the state or risk losing the money, as well as an additional $7.5 million in federal funds the state is withholding until a plan is in place, The Journal News reports.

Without the funding, Yonkers Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio said the district will be forced to lay off 180 to 200 teachers during the middle of the school year. Yonkers schools are already “reeling from mass layoffs,” according to the Journal News.

“We limped into this school year,” Pierorazio told the news site. “Obviously, a midyear cut would be devastating.”

Pierorazio wants to put the evaluation plan in place before turning his focus to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union. But union leaders want to use the urgency of the situation to force school officials to address both issues at the same time. They have leverage because union officials need to sign off on the evaluation plan.

In other words, union bosses won’t focus on the new evaluations without contract talks, despite the extremely short time frame to come to an agreement.

District and union officials have been unsuccessful in negotiating a new contract for more than a year, yet somehow YFT President Pat Puleo believes the sides could complete a new contract and new evaluation plan within the next week or two … if school officials would only come to the table.

“The district should do the right thing and bargain in good faith so we can have a contract and so we are not sitting with a sword of Damocles over our heads,” Puleo told the Journal News.

What a load of garbage. Union officials clearly like the sword of Damocles dangling over the district, because it puts pressure on school officials to do what the union wants.

Teachers unions in Massachusetts, California, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and other New York districts have used similar tactics in recent weeks to block new teacher evaluation plans. In each case they’ve also blocked, or threatened to block, federal funding for their schools from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.

Yonkers union officials should simply come clean with the public, make their hostage demands clear, and let citizens decide who is really being unreasonable.

We believe district officials are doing the right thing for students and their community by focusing on the most urgent issue first, which is adopting an evaluation plan and avoiding layoffs. It would be foolish to muck up the conversation with the union’s long list of contract demands.

If the YFT doesn’t like it and refuses to participate in the process, that’s its prerogative. But everyone will know who to blame when hundreds of union members lose their jobs.

The layoffs, coupled with the loss of millions in school funding, will send a message to parents, students, school leaders and the community: The union only cares about itself. Education is not a priority for the masters of Big Labor.

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