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Five districts get funds restored -- but not Buffalo

State Education Commissioner John King announced today that he has reinstated school improvement grant funding to five districts -- Albany, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Schenectady and Syracuse.

Buffalo was conspicuously absent from the list.

Asked about the district's status, an SED spokesman pointed to a statement from King indicating that "the five districts whose SIG funding is still suspended [including Buffalo] have requested hearings to challenge his ruling."

Buffalo's $9.3 million in SIG funds for six low-performing schools was suspended after the district failed to submit principal and teacher evaluation plans for those schools, for 2011-12, that the state deemed acceptable. Nine other districts also saw their SIG funding suspended.

Buffalo has since submitted at least three revised plans, according to teachers union president Phil Rumore.

Today's press release from the state Education Department read, in part:

"Teacher and principal evaluations are a major ingredient of the Regents reform agenda," Commissioner King said.  "The evaluation agreements submitted by these five districts are clear evidence that school districts and local unions can come together to craft a meaningful evaluation system.  The end result is better teaching and improved learning, both of which translate into better opportunities for the students in SIG schools.

"This proves that districts and teachers can get it done.  After SIG funding was suspended in January, these five districts went back to the drawing board and worked out agreements that meet the state and federal requirements.  All five districts can now receive their 2011-12 SIG funding.  Students at these schools have been denied a good education for far too long.  Meaningful teacher evaluations and the improvements funded with SIG money should help start to turn that around."

- Mary Pasciak

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