ALBANY — In the latest rebuke to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s agenda, state lawmakers have decided to bar student test scores from being considered when teacher tenure determinations are made.
Legislators said the move was the final detail negotiated as part of the budget, which they expect to complete on Wednesday. It was a setback to efforts by the mayor and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer to hold teachers accountable by using student performance data, and a boon for the teachers’ unions, which hold enormous influence over the political process in the capital.
The new language being prepared for the state law says that for the next two years student scores will not be considered in decisions on teachers’ tenure; in the meantime, a commission is to be created to study the issue.
The move was denounced Tuesday night by the Bloomberg administration.
“I am dismayed that the State Legislature would even consider tying the hands of principals and school districts as they decide who gets lifetime job security,” said Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. “This is unconscionable. Lawmakers should do all they can to ensure every student has a good teacher. I urge our lawmakers to vote no tomorrow. Our children deserve better.”
The development was another sign that the fledgling administration of Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, could be a rocky one for the mayor. The new governor was unable to rally support for the mayor’s congestion pricing plan, which would have charged drivers to enter Manhattan below 60th Street. While Mr. Paterson supported the measure, he could not persuade Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver or other Assembly Democrats to bring the measure to the floor, and it was pronounced dead without a vote on Monday.
The mayor and his staff members were seething when it became known on Tuesday that the teacher accountability measure in state law was being revised. Lawmakers and legislative aides said they expected to return to work Wednesday morning and vote on the final piece of the budget — education financing and taxes — and it was the tenure issue, they said, that held it up.
“That is the last piece,” Mr. Silver said. “And I think there’s, you know, some good compromise language we’re considering right now.” He added, “I think everybody will be comfortable with it.”
He did not discuss details of the compromise, but a draft of the relevant portion of the budget obtained by The New York Times changes language added to state law last year while Mr. Spitzer was governor.
That section said teachers would be evaluated for tenure based on, among other things, an “evaluation of the extent to which the teacher successfully utilized analysis of available student performance data.”
The newer language says that “the teacher shall not be granted or denied tenure based on student performance data.”
The matter is to be turned over to a study commission for further review.
“They’re just reviewing final language on the tenure bill, new language that the school boards have signed off on,” said John McArdle, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, the state’s top Republican. “I think it works. Once that’s resolved, they’ll print the bills.”
Pressure from unions weighed heavily in the process, and particularly with Senate Republicans.
“From very early on, the Assembly and the governor understood what was at issue here,” said Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers. “It may have taken us a little bit longer to get the Senate to understand, but I think they do.”
He added, “Student assessments are designed to assess students, not teachers.”
Though the bills were still being drafted, the last unresolved pieces of the state’s budget seemed in place by Tuesday night. Legislative officials said that agreements had been reached about increases to various state taxes and fees, one of the issues that had stymied budget negotiations over the last several weeks.
Overall, officials said, spending of all funds in the roughly $122 billion budget would increase by 4.9 percent, nearly twice the rate of inflation, assuming that the final budget materializes as expected Wednesday morning. While the increase would be less than what Mr. Spitzer originally proposed in January, many budget critics and the governor himself have said the budget is bloated.
The state’s $1.50 cigarette tax will go up $1.25 more, but many of the taxes and fees that were first proposed by Mr. Spitzer will not be included. The proposal to quadruple the state’s motor vehicle insurance fee to $20 has been dropped, as has the plan mockingly called the “crack tax,” which would have taxed drug dealers on drugs confiscated by the authorities, and a plan to eliminate the tax cap on fuel purchases.
In a victory for Senate Republicans, some of the tax increases will expire after three years, Mr. McArdle said. Mr. Paterson had fought to make the new tax and fee increases permanent because he said the state’s debt rating with credit agencies would suffer if they were only temporary.
The likelihood that coming financial estimates from the state comptroller will show a further deterioration of the state’s financial picture put more pressure on the Legislature to avoid last-minute spending increases.
On April 15, the comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, is to update state revenue collections through the end of March, and most experts predict a drop from previous revenue estimates.
Moreover, in the next day or two, the comptroller will also issue a separate report detailing actual revenues and spending over the last fiscal year, a measure of how closely the state followed its own financial plan. If actual spending was lower than planned, as has been the case previously, that would in effect magnify proposed spending increases for the coming fiscal year, putting further pressure on budget negotiators to avoid last-minute spending increases.
“I do think that the revenue picture is deteriorating, and it’s going to be very important to keep an eye on those revenue updates,” said Elizabeth Lynam, the deputy research director for the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit group that favors fiscal discipline.