Mar 30th - 9:11 pm
New teacher evaluation criteria that is being proposed in the state budget would potentially put the onus on local teachers unions as to whether a second test should be added for students which would count to a performance rating, according to a Cuomo administration official.
“It’s an option and it’s a risk,” the official said on Monday night. “It is a risk to have that second test. We’ve design it in the system because we’re trying to reduce testing.”
Details of the teacher evaluation criteria are being fleshed out after a day of waiting for the massive Education, Labor and Family Assistance budget bill, typically the largest and most complex components of the spending plan.
The official said negotiations are done on the education policy piece, but developing district-by-district breakdowns of how much money schools will receive is still being worked out.
The policy measure in the budget is called the Education Transformation Act of 2015 and will be included in the broader ELFA spending bill.
The package is a nine-point plan that includes new evaluation criteria, accreditation for teaching colleges, a teaching “bar exam” along with providing free public college tuition to teachers who commit for five years.
The proposal also has plans for school receivership and reducing the number of tests in schools.
But the evaluation changes as well as making it easier to fire poor performing teachers will likely be the biggest lift for lawmakers — especially in the Democratic-led Assembly where the teachers’ unions are especially strongest — to approve in the final budget agreement.
Evaluations would include one state-based test, along with an option — to be decided by collective bargaining — for a second test to be developed by the Department of Education. No new funding will be allocated for the second test, which would not have to a newly written examination.
Implementing the new evaluation is tied to a increase in education aid, with a November deadline.
“It puts the burden on them and in many ways belies the myth the state was asking for more test,” the official said. “Now, if they want the second test, they’ve going to need to ask for a second test.”
If a teacher is rated ineffective in the student growth performance category of state tests, the teacher cannot be rated effective.
Observation would be the second component of the plan, with a principal and an independent observer included.
The scoring bands — or weighted percentages for student performance and observation in the classroom — will be decided by the Department of Education.
Tenure is tied to performance, with teachers needing at least three years of being rated effective.
The New York State United Teachers union is deeply opposed to the changes, along with the 3020A overhaul, which would make it easier to fire poor-performing teachers, regardless of tenure. NYSUT is circulating a memo this evening urging lawmakers to reject the proposals on evaluations as well as the tenure and dismissal proceedings.
But the Cuomo administration is also confident that the proposal contains enough incentives for teachers, including a $20,000 merit-bonus proposal (which unions have opposed) as well as the SUNY and CUNY full tuition proposal.
Mar 30th - 6:36 pm
A memorandum of opposition from the New York Stated United Teachers union being circulated with state lawmakers urges them to reject major provisions of the education reform proposals that are in the spending plan’s framework.
The memo comes after state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a framework deal, but specifics on the agreement through budget bill language remain elusive.
Still, some of the details of the education reform proposals in the budget, according to the administration, include proposals opposed by the union — namely changes to teacher evaluation criteria, tenure and the 3020A proceedings which make it easier for districts to fire poorly performing teachers.
“These proposals will likely eliminate tenure, collective bargaining rights and due process for educators,” the memo states. “Further, this will strongly discourage educators with high-needs populations, children living in poverty, English Language learns, or children with disabilities.
NYSUT states the organization opposes the use of outside evaluations as well as what it sees as the “loss” of collective bargaining in the evaluation system.
“The building principal or superintendent is the appropriate person to conduct observations, not someone with no or limited experience or someone with limited knowledge of the teacher being evaluated,” the memo states.
Similarly, the effort to have tenure reformed to four years, with three years of good performance ratings of “effective” — a proposal that NYSUT states is “impossible for a new teacher to attain.”
Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, had said the state Department of Education would be overseeing the teacher evaluation criteria. The Cuomo administration, however, says SED’s role is limited in its scope to only developing a second, optional test for school districts to use on evaluations.
Education funding overall is expected to grow by $1.3 billion in school aid.
Cuomo has said repeatedly that education reform was perhaps the heaviest lift of the state budget, but one he wanted to achieve this year even as other measures dropped out of the negotiations.
Mar 30th - 5:07 pm
AG Eric Schneiderman called the ethics reform deal Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached with legislative leaders “tinkering around the edges,” though he admitted he hadn’t yet seen the details.
“Preet Bharara’s office is not anyplace a guilty person wants to be, so you search your conscience and wipe your sweaty forehead before entering. The most powerful prosecutor in the country…occupies a four-square chamber flooded with relentless governmental ceiling light, which makes his charcoal suit all the darker and his white shirt, so stiff it could pour itself a glass of water, all the whiter.”
Cuomo’s unauthorized biographer Michael Shnayerson suggests the governor “put aside the echoes of the Cuomo men, to be the softer, gentler, kinder son you can be and sometimes were: Matilda’s son above all.”
The state budget deal includes a reprieve until 2017 for NYDoctorProfile.com – a publicly-funded website that allows the public to look up licensed doctors and learn about their education and any legal actions taken against them.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney today became the first woman to chair the New York State Thruway Authority.
Reps. Lee Zeldin and John Katko are among 15 House Republicans being targeted in college newspaper ads by the DCCC for “making it harder” for students to afford a higher education.
Anti-Semitic incidents in New York rose 14 percent between 2013 and 2014 and were once again higher than any other state, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.
A month after forcing four retailers to stop selling certain supplements, Schneiderman announced that GNC has agreed to implement safety and inspection standards stricter than those of the FDA.
John Catsimatidis, Democrat-turned-Republican supermarket mogul, invited supporters to a fund-raiser for Democratic US Sen. Charles Schumer at his swank Manhattan apartment next month, touting Schumer’s increasingly likely ascension to the position of Senate majority leader.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn’t interested in challenging Schumer for the Democratic leadership post, and she’s still not running for president in 2016.
At this point, it looks like retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership job is Schumer’s to lose.
In a NYT letter to the editor, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray suggests improving mental health services and screening for pilots following the Germanwings disaster.
If former Gov. George Pataki were a betting man, he would bet on himself running for president in 2016.
An AP story on the state’s Justice Center identifying hundreds of reports alleging abuse or neglect connected to sleeping on the job has drawn criticism from CSEA.
Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez says he will donate a $30,000 settlement of his Occupy Wall Street-related lawsuit against the NYPD to the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from a Bronx church that said it has a constitutional right to keep holding worship services in a New York City public school.
A bill introduced by Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos would mandate the use of recycled concrete in all new street construction projects.
Saying the military needs to do more to compete with corporate America for quality recruits, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened the door to relaxing some enlistment standards – particularly for high-tech or cyber security jobs.
Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky makes a pitch for changing the budget process altogether.
The number of people running NYC who are originally from Massachusetts is growing.
OMCE members will get the raises they were seeking under the 2015-16 budget deal, just not as quickly has they had hoped.
Gov. Chris Christie is bringing a slice of Iowa to New Jersey in June with the Republican holding a fundraiser for GOP Sen. Charles Grassley.
Meet 31-year-old South African comedian Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart’s replacement as host of “The Daily Show.”
A Lancaster town councilman was charged with driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a property-damage accident after hitting a parked car Sunday night.
Mar 30th - 5:02 pm
Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Monday criticized the state budget agreement for not including the education investment tax credit, a measure the Catholic Church has vigorously lobbied the state government over the last several years.
In a statement, Dolan directed blame not just at state officials, but also the public teachers unions for opposing the legislation.
In doing so, he echoed Cuomo’s own critical statements aimed at the public schools unions.
“Our elected officials must cease allowing public school teachers unions intent on creating a government school monopoly to continue dictating education policy in our state,” Dolan said. “We turn again to our leaders to do the right thing, and pass the Education Tax Credit, not for any interest group, but for the children of our state. Every year that goes by is more lost opportunity for untold numbers of children. Their futures will not wait. Who will put their needs first?”
The tax credit is meant to spur donations to public schools as well as scholarships that provide aid to private schools.
The measure this year was tied to the DREAM Act, which is opposed by Senate Republicans. The linkage had the effect of essentially cancelling both measures out.
The EITC and the DREAM Act aren’t the only measures to have fallen off the budget table, but they remain the most emotional issues for the groups that pushed them this legislative session.
The budget itself included a $1.3 billion increase in school aid this year overall.
“We have a difficult time understanding how in the world this has proven to be such difficult legislation to pass,” Dolan said. “We have a Governor who has called it a ‘matter of justice’ and included it in his executive budget. We have a Senate that passed it overwhelmingly by a vote of 44-16 earlier this year. And we have an Assembly with a solid majority of Democrats and Republicans who have said they support it. In addition, it has the support of more than 150 community, business, education, faith and labor organizations. Yet, somehow, it ended up pulled from the budget agreement, while the public schools again get a new boost to their gargantuan budget.”
Here is the full statement from Dolan.
Mar 30th - 3:34 pm
The cuts to education aid from the Gap Elimination Adjustment will be cut by “well over 50 percent” and a full restoration will be made next year, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Monday told reporters.
School aid runs are yet to be released, but those are expected to be detailed later in the day or by Tuesday.
There is still no budget bill detailing spending for the education, labor and family assistance portion of the budget. A final aid total has been pegged at around $1.3 billion.
“That’s always just about the last thing that’s completed,” Skelos said of the bill known as ELFA. “But we know that there will be an increase in aid to education of a billion-four. Some of it is expense-driven. There will be a significant reduction in the gap elimination, well over 50 percent. And I believe the governor is committed to elimination of the rest next year.”
Eliminating the GEA had been a push for Senate Republicans, who campaigned on the issue last year against the cuts that were first installed during Democratic rule in the state Senate.
For school districts, the restoration of the GEA makes it easier to plan for next year, lawmakers said.
“I think that is extraordinarily beneficial for school districts,” Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan said.
At the same time, lawmakers are still working out what role the Department of Education will play in setting teacher evaluation criteria.
“What’s being discussed now certainly involves SED and whatever their charge will be I think will have to be accomplished by the end of the legislative session, so they will have that discretion,” Flanagan said.
The budget agreement announced Sunday includes a receivership program first pushed by Cuomo, but there some aspects for local control, as well as having a year for struggling schools to enact turnaround programs.
The governor’s office has said the changes do not require new collective bargaining agreements between unions and local school districts.
Skelos, meanwhile, reiterated he will push in the post-budge legislative session for the education investment tax credit, which is aimed at spurring donations to public schools and non-profit scholarship programs that aid private schools.
The measure in the budget was linked to the DREAM Act, which Senate Republicans staunchly oppose.
“In terms of the DREAM Act, I think the governor was realistic that we were not going to do it. We don’t believe that people who are here illegally should have an advantage over people who are taking out student loans,” Skelos said.
He added that undocumented workers can’t be legally employed in the state to begin with and he questioned the political push by Democratic lawmakers for the policy.
“The DREAM Act I think is something that many of the Democrats want to hold out as an issue rather than having a real understanding of how we should be educating people and reality of who should hold a job and who cannot,” he said.
Mar 30th - 2:32 pm
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos defended the decision to include in the state budget a tax break for those with boats worth $230,000, calling such a measure one that creates jobs.
Speaking with reporters in a gaggle outside of his office, Skelos compared the tax break which covers “every description of watercraft other than a seaplane used or capable to being used as a means of transportation on water” to the film-tax credit, which has expanded in recent years.
“It creates jobs, it makes New York state competitive and that would afford jobs for people to make above the minimum wage,” Skelos told reporters. “It’s about job creation. Just like we have the film tax credit, we have other exemptions.”
The yacht exemption, along with a sales tax break for those who own private airplanes, was quickly pounced on by liberal watchdog groups like the Fiscal Policy Institute and Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“It seems like the yacht and airplane owner lobby is much more powerful than people thought,” Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “It is outrageous that we are giving yacht and airplane owners massive tax breaks while we refuse to provide a real minimum wage increase or real property tax relief.”
The minimum wage hike proposal — Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pushed a two-tiered structure for the city and the rest of the state — ultimately fell out of the budget. A last-ditch attempt would have linked a property tax rebate proposal to the minimum wage hike, but that failed.
Skelos defended the lack of wage hike in this budget, noting it is due to automatically increase at the end of this year to $9 based on a 2013 law.
“I can’t say nobody’s done anything. The minimum wage is increasing this year,” Skelos said. “My position is with the minimum wage let’s look at the economic impact, is it really going to create jobs? We have an earned income tax credit that most minimum wage earners probably get. So they’re not earning minimum wage. They get a check from the government, they’re not paying taxes, it’s a billion dollars a year, it goes to them, so they’re earning above the minimum wage.”
Updated: The labor-backed Working Families Party is also knocking the proposal covering yachts and planes.
“The Governor and legislature should be ashamed of a state budget that provides tax breaks for yachts and private jets while failing to raise the minimum wage,” said WFP Co-Chairwoman Karen Scharff. “This outrage proves once again the link between campaign donations from the wealthy and policies that increase inequality.”
Mar 30th - 2:15 pm
The negotiations the disclosure of outside legal clients by state lawmakers was a “member-driven” effort, according to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Senate Republicans on Sunday night announced an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to create a system with built-in protections and allowances for client disclosure by state lawmakers who also work as attorneys.
The ethics bill was one of the final hurdles to achieving a budget deal, alongside an agreement on education reform.
Cuomo had initially reached a deal with Assembly Democrats on the ethics package, but Senate Republicans balked at the disclosure push.
In the end, a group of Senate Republicans negotiated the details of the legislation.
A main question remains over whether the extent of disclosure for lawmakers who are attorneys who are “of counsel” at firms and have no direct clients themselves, but help bring business to the firm.
No bill language is available yet, but lawmakers insisted the disclosure would be broad.
“There’s no distinction in the bill between lawyers who work with firms and lawyers who work in small firms dealing with smaller clients,” said Sen. John DeFrancico, one of the negotiators of the bill and an attorney.
Senate Republicans negotiated an agreement with Cuomo that allows for the Office of Court Administration to determine whether a client should or should not be disclosed based on a series of criteria, including whether the client has business before state government, is involved in a divorce proceeding or is a case that involves a child.
“The lawyer would have to submit a statement that the client doesn’t do business with the state, has not received any grants, a whole series of things to try to take care of the thing people are concerned about with our former speaker,” DeFrancisco said.
The agreement comes after the arrest earlier this year of former Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is accused of masking legal referrals as bribes.
The initial ethics deal with the Assembly that includes the $5,000 threshold for business remains in tact, lawmakers said.
The ethics pacakge also includes reforms to the travel per diem disbursement system as well as disclosure of independent expenditures and other campaign finance reform measures.
Mar 30th - 12:24 pm
Taking a breaking from the budget madness for a moment to focus on the 2016 congressional elections…(yes, I know they’re far away).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out a fundraising appeal over the weekend on behalf of veteran Rochester Rep. Louise Slaughter, whose near loss in the 2014 general election by her under-funded and little-known Republican challenger, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, took Democrats both in New York and across the nation by surprise – especially after Slaughter survived a tough challenge in 2012 from a far better known GOP opponent, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.
Clearly, the Democrats do not intend a repeat of this experience when they try to re-take the majority in 2016, should the 85-year-old Slaughter seek yet another term. Assini has already signaled an interest in a rematch, and Slaughter has not ruled out running again.
In her email sent Sunday morning, Pelosi said she needed to talk about “my friend Louise,” who “won by just 871 votes last year, attracting the attention of Speaker Boehner and every mega Tea Party donor across America.”
“The first FEC deadline of the year is arguably the most important one, especially after such a close call in November,” Pelosi continued. “Louise’s opponent will be scouring this FEC report for any sign that Louise is weak. She must shatter records before her deadline on Tuesday.”
“Louise needs our help…We need more people like Louise in Congress. But apparently Republicans think we need less—and they’re prepared to put their money where their mouth is. That’s why I’m asking you to help Louise fight back now – before it’s too late.”
According to Pelosi, the DCCC is matching all contributions to Slaughter of $3 or more – yet another sign that the Democrats aren’t fooling around this time, taking this race seriously.
And if Slaughter doesn’t run, they’ll have to defend an open seat. Technically speaking, that should be a fairly easy lift for the Democrats in a presidential year, since they enjoy an enrollment edge in NY-25, but it all depends on who the candidates are – and, of course, you can’t forget that all politics are local.
It’s also worth noting, though this is completely unrelated, that Slaughter is appearing today with US Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is the favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid as the next Democratic caucus leader in the upper house. The duo is together for a dedication ceremony at the Rochester Main Post office in honor of SPC Matt Glende
Mar 30th - 11:44 am
The president of the statewide teachers union on Monday was not willing to declare a win or directly bash the framework budget agreement given the lack of bill language on education.
“Until the details come out, it’s hard to draw any straight conclusions,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee.
We do know the budget includes plans that make it easier for schools to fire teachers who are deemed poor performing over the course of several years, extends granting tenure to four years and creates a new evaluation system for teachers that takes a blended approach of both state-based tests as well as local observation into account.
A receivership program for struggling or “failing” schools was also agreed to in the spending plan, which includes a year-long turnaround period for schools that submit plans to the state Department of Education.
Merit pay was also included in the budget plan as well, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
“At this point in time the governor’s budget is not a budge that’s good for all kids in New York state,” Magee told reporters. “That’s a concern we still have.”
But the specifics are yet to be fully fleshed out as state lawmakers return to the Capitol today to begin voting on the budget legislation that has already aged.
An administration official last night said the changes to the evaluation criteria won’t require going back to the collective bargaining process.
“He’s really looking at some attacks on collective bargaining as they relate to the annual professional performance review,” Magee said. “My understanding because the details aren’t clear at this time, the language isn’t written in at this time, but my understand is he’s going to be giving a lot of this work to the Board of Regents.”
The state Department of Education’s role in the performance review criteria, however, is said to be limited to developing a second, optional test for school districts that could be included in evaluations.
“The evaluation program and the conversations what we’re hearing at this time will include a combination of local measures, state measures,” Magee said. “The devil’s in the details and we do not have the details at this point in time, unfortunately.”
Mar 30th - 11:05 am
Manhattan Democratic Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a statement this morning called the lack of the inclusion in the DREAM Act in the budget an “injustice” that needs to be corrected.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to include the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, in the 2015-16 state budget and lashed it to the education investment tax credit.
Cuomo last month doubled down, by linking both the EITC and DREAM to the Tuition Assistance Program.
But ultimately both measures fell off the negotiating table. Cuomo cited the lack of desire to pass the education investment tax credit in the Assembly, given its opposition from the state’s teachers unions.
Senate Republicans remain opposed to the DREAM Act and rebuffed an effort to link the measure to a property-tax relief program.
“Today I am reminded of the Langston Hughes poem ‘Harlem’ and its fundamental question ‘what happens to a dream deferred?’ The failure to include DREAM Act funding in the budget is a missed opportunity for New York State to provide relief for hard working students trapped by our nation’s broken immigration system,” Espaillat said. “Immigrants have long been the backbone of this nation and this state and turning our backs on them is tantamount to turning our backs on core American values. It is disheartening that the 4000 undocumented immigrants who graduate from our high schools each year will continue to be denied the same access to higher education as their friends and classmates. While this budget is a step back, we won’t stop fighting until this injustice is corrected.”
The DREAM Act and the tax credit — meant to spur donations to public schools and scholarships — will likely be debated into the post-budget legislative session.
Their chances of passage outside of the budget are doubtful given the leverage landscape shifts away from the governor. Cuomo does have other leverage points he can use, including an expiration of rent control laws tied to the tax cap as well as an expiration of mayoral control for New York City schools.