By Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY - New York's small city, suburban and rural school districts expect to spend an average of $155,355 this year to implement the state's new teacher and principal evaluation plans, a report Thursday from the state School Boards Association found.
The one-year costs outpace the four-year federal grant provided for funding the program by nearly $55,000, according to an analysis of 80 school districts outside the state's "Big Five."
"Our analysis ... shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts," the group's executive director, Timothy Kremer, said in a statement. "This seriously jeopardizes school districts' ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students."
The evaluation system is a requirement for receiving funding from President Obama's Race to the Top initiative.
In 2010, New York was awarded $700 million in Race To The Top grants. About half of the funding will go to local school districts over four years to implement the evaluation system, as well as other initiatives.
The average grant in New York, excluding the state's five largest city school districts, is $100,670. That's $54,685 short of districts' average implementation costs, according to the report.
School districts incurred additional compensation costs, as well as those associated with training, developing new assessments and purchasing software and technology. The costs for the 80 districts included in the analysis ranged from $15,500 to $626,583.
"When we talk about unfunded - or, in this case, underfunded - mandates, this is exactly what we mean," Kremer said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for the evaluations, tying an increase in school aid this year to districts' ability to reach agreements with their local unions.
Only a handful of school districts missed the Jan. 17 deadline, including the massive New York City district, which is still without a plan. There is currently a court battle over whether the state may withhold $240 million from the district.
Most districts negotiated one-year plans, so they'll have to renew plans by next year or again risk losing a state-funding increase.
Cuomo has said the evaluations will improve the quality of instruction at schools.
The governor's office had no immediate comment.