Nick Reisman

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Marcellino: Mayoral Control And Charter Cap Will Be A Conference Decision

Incoming Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino will meet next Wednesday with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss the mayoral control issue, the Nassau County Republican said in a phone interview on Friday.

Whether to extend mayoral control of city schools, and how long that extension might be, will ultimately be an issue that’s up to the Republican conference, he said.

“We’re going to sit down on Wednesday and talk to Mayor de Blasio,” Marcellino said. “He and I will sit down and talk about the issues. There’s a lot to talk about. We’ll discuss the concepts. conference position. It’s an issue that has to e discussed in conference.”

The Democratic-led Assembly this week approved a three-year extension of mayoral control and Republican Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn on Thursday backed an extension, albeit without a time frame for a new expiration date.

By the same token, Marcellino said a proposal to lift the state’s cap on charter schools would also be up to the GOP conference as well.

“I don’t oppose charter schools, but how many there have to be has to be looked at,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan this afternoon formally announced he would appoint Marcellino to replace him as chairman of the Senate Education committee.

It’s a key spot in the Legislature, especially in the post-budget legislative session that is expected to contend with a number of high-profile education matters. Meanwhile, state lawmakers continue to grapple with contentious issues such as the Common Core education standards and how to evaluate teachers in the classroom.

He called the appointment a “major responsibility” and said he was optimistic changes could be made to the education measures approved in the state budget last month.

“We’ve got a lot before us there’s a lot to do on the table,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with our colleagues in both houses. We have to reach out to parents and teachers.”

Marcellino is the sponsor of a bill in the chamber that would extend the deadline for the implementation of the new evaluation criteria both at the state level and for school districts.

“I’m always optimistic,” Marcellino said. “I do believe we can work out an agreement with the Assembly and then hopefully the governor will agree.”

Marcellino knocked the introduction of Common Core in the state, saying its roll out was mishandled by education officials.

“Common Core is about improving standards,” he said. “I don’t think anybody can seriously be against higher standards. But it’s a question of how it’s implemented. The roll out was poor, it’s got to be implemented better.”

Marcellino introduced a separate bill this year that would provide teachers with the answer key to Common Core-based tests, which he said could help teachers improve.

“I do believe there is an overemphasis on testing,” he said. “Using testing as a learning tool is important. You have to give the questions back to the teachers so they can learn from the test. The test should be a learning tool.”

A former high school science teacher at Grover Cleveland High School, Marcellino indicated he was sympathetic toward how teachers are treated (Marcellino was a teacher at the same time Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan was a student at the high school).

“Teachers have always been evaluated. We were evaluated constantly,” he said. “I don’t think any teacher fears an evaluation. We have to tell them this isn’t us against them. There’s no gotcha mentality in my approach to education.”

He indicated support for more money to develop teacher training methods and said the teachers unions should be getting involved as well to “make sure everyone has a fair shot.”

Nevertheless, Marcellino said there was little daylight between him and Flanagan on education issues, despite what he said were minor disagreements.

“I think we’re pretty much aligned,” he said. “John and I have been good friends for years.”

Marcellino’s Bills: Extend Teacher Eval Deadline, Reveal Common Core Info

Incoming Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino has backed a number of education-related bills over the years as well as measures designed to reform the Common Core standards and teacher evaluation system.

Marcellino on Friday was the announced appointment of Majority Leader John Flanagan to chair the education panel, which will take up a number of high-profile school-related issues in the remaining post-budget legislative session.

Marcellino in the last several weeks alone has introduced legislation dealing with the Common Core standards as well as the newly approved teacher evaluation regulations.

The evaluation bill would move the deadline for school districts to adopt the new evaluation criteria from November of this year to June 2017. The new requirements for the evaluation criteria wouldn’t be set until Jan. 31, 2017, under Marcellino’s bill.

“The current effective date of June 30, 2015 is simply unrealistic when you combine all the obstacles currently in the way of a successful process,” the bill memo states. “The obstacles include the lack of a current SED commissioner, the learning curve of newly confirmed members to the Board of Regents, the confusion amongst the Board relative to the adopted language, and growing opposition from both parents and education professionals.”

Under the measure approved in the budget, school districts must adopt the evaluation criteria by Nov. 15 or risk losing a boost in state education aid.

The Democratic-led Assembly has already passed a package bills that would extend the deadline for setting the evaluation criteria as well as unlinking the aid from the evaluation adoption.

Another Marcellino-backed measure would reform Common Core-based tests by providing test answers and questions to teachers.

In the legislative memorandum of support, Marcellino expresses sympathy for teachers administering Common Core-based tests.

“In recent months, parents and teachers have expressed the need for common core tests and results to be made available to the teachers who administer the exams,” the bill memo states. “These results can be helpful to teachers and students to improve and better understand their strengths and weaknesses regarding these exams.”

Marcellino’s introduction of these bills could give those in the education reform movement some pause: Flanagan, as education committee chairman, was seen as generally supportive of Common Core-based standards.

In a Facebook post earlier this year, Marcellino expressed opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education measures included in the budget.

“Let’s be clear. I do not support the Governor’s education reform proposals,” he wrote. “His plan is bad policy and bad for education. If it was up to me alone, these concepts would be off the table completely, but it takes the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor to craft a final budget. We must negotiate. Our Senate one house budget did not accept his plan and clearly states our intention to modify his flawed design.”

Marcellino has also been skeptical of efforts to tie an extension of mayoral control to New York City schools to rising the cap on charter schools statewide.

Other bills Marcellino has introduced would:

  • Require statements in the Board of Regents’ annual reports detailing total expenditures made by school districts
  • Require each school district to state what percentage of their expenses has gone toward instruction in an annual report card
  • Reduce the number of members on the Board of Regents to 13, with each representing an existing judicial district
  • Encourage school districts to install alternative energy systems such as solar, wind or geothermal.

Marcellino In Line For Senate Education Chair

Sen. Carl Marcellino of Nassau County will take the top post at the Senate Education Committee, Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a Friday afternoon statement.

Marcellino replaces Flanagan as chairman of the closely watched committee after he was elevated to majority leader last week, replacing Dean Skelos, who faces corruption charges.

“Next week, I will formally appoint Senator Carl Marcellino as Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Education,” Flanagan said in a statement. “Senator Marcellino has a wealth of experience in the Legislature and is a former public school teacher and school board member with a strong grasp of the education system in New York State. I know he will do a tremendous job representing students and their parents when it comes to improving the quality of education, and he will be a tireless advocate for the members of our Senate Republican Conference and the taxpayers and constituents they represent.”

Marcellino is taking the helm at the committee at a key time for education issues: An extension of mayoral control for New York City schools remains under negotiations, as are changes to education measures, such as a new teacher evaluation system, are under debate.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing forward with a revamped education investment tax credit and an effort to raise the cap on charter schools statewide.

DiNapoli: Pension Fund Hits $183.5B

The state’s pension fund has hit a record estimated value of $183.5 billion at the end of the state’s fiscal year in March, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office on Friday announced.

The fiscal year runs from April 1 through March 31.

“The Fund performed well over the past year despite the challenges in the market,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “We achieved a solid return on investments in the midst of global volatility thanks to our talented investment staff and our diversified asset allocation.”

New York maintains the third-largest public pension fund in the nation with one million state and local government employees, retirees and beneficiaries.

The pension fund’s long-term rate of rate is expected to be at 7.5 percent, DiNapoli’s office said.

Cuomo Administration Nixes Email Policy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced on Friday it is ending a highly criticized email retention policy that required unsaved messages be deleted after 90 days.

In its place, state officials pledged to develop a “uniform” policy for state agencies and departments that would provide specific guidance on which emails should be retained as official records and be maintained.

The announcement came at a meeting on open government and records retention featuring top Cuomo aide Bill Mulrow and the governor’s counsel, Alphonso David. Representatives of the attorney general’s office and comptroller’s office were also present.

The sole lawmaker who participated by phone was Republican Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

“The 90-day policy is being eliminated as of today,” David said at the meeting. “The administration is looking forward to creating a uniformed policy that’s consistent with the best practices across the country.”

Details of what emails and documents would be maintained by the new policy were yet to be made official, but David indicated the administration would rely on the existing retention laws. At the same time, he suggested that retention of email may be up to individual users to determine whether an email should be deleted.

The new policy, he said, will be “governed by the user and it’s going to be manual more than anything else.”

Meanwhile, the governor’s office plans to introduce legislation that would subject the state Legislature to the same open government requirements as the rest of state government.

The Legislature is largely exempt from the existing FOIL laws, but does make a few documents public, such as bills and finalized reports. Such a measure would mean legislators’ emails and meetings with lobbyists could become required disclosure.

David said the Legislature currently does not have a “presumption of producing documents” that the rest of state government, including the administration, falls under.

It is unlikely the Legislature will pass such a measure before the end of the session on June 17. Mulrow, Cuomo’s secretary, knocked the legislative conferences for not appearing at the meeting today in New York City.

Cuomo since taking office has come under criticism for his transparency record despite promising one of the most open administrations in state history.

Cuomo did open the second floor to the public, which had been closed since George Pataki’s time in office. He has produced sanitized versions of his daily schedules online and push lawmakers to disclose more details on their outside income.

But reporters have complained the administration has been slow to respond to FOIL requests. Daily schedules of where the governor will be are often left vague or blasted out with little moments’ notice before an event.

The state budget negotiations, too, have remained mostly out of public view.

Debate Continues Over Campus Sexual Assault Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the post-budget legislative session has been an effort to curtail rape and sexual assault at private college campuses, but state lawmakers continue to have questions over the proposal’s potential consequences.

The measure would codify what has already been in place last year for the SUNY system and be expanded to impact private-college campuses and, supporters say, make New York one of the most stringent states when it comes to handling rape and assault at institutions of higher education.

Law enforcement, including the State Police, would have a greater role in investigating allegations of rape and assault.

But with 12 days to go in the legislative session, lawmakers continue to press their concerns over the details of the proposal first made by Cuomo at the beginning of the year.

“Definitions are very important,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “If things are too vague and not specific enough, that certainly leaves things open for misunderstanding, miscommunication and perhaps litigation. So, some of the concerns are around definitions.”

At the heart of the measure is provision that would require affirmative consent in sexual encounters. In an interview, Glick said the definitions of sexual encounters and interactions needs to be made as concise as possible.

“We want to make certain it’s fully understood what that means,” she said.

Along with the education investment tax credit and a plan to increase the age of criminal responsbility, the Enough Is Enough campaign has been a top, end-of-session priority for the governor after the passage of the state budget.

But working through the legal particulars of the plan has been a complicated task for state lawmakers already swamped with a number of nettlesome end-of-session issues.

Then there are concerns over whether the legislation would protect encounters involving those who gay, lesbian and transgender (Cuomo, a father of three teenage daughters, has frequently cited them when discussing the topic).

“We have to think broadly enough,” Glick said. “We want to make certain that people understand it’s also applied even handily to people who are LGBT — especially transgender youngsters.”

And there’s the issue of involving law enforcement — a provision included in the legislation so that college officials aren’t the only redress.

“Not everybody wants to proceed with a criminal case and we certainly don’t want to have young people live and repeat their story many, many times,” Glick said.

After Capital Tonight contacted Cuomo’s office to discuss the issues being raised, special advisor to the governor Christine Quinn in a phone interview responded the concerns.

Quinn said in the interview that she agrees “100 percent” with the concerns that if the legislation isn’t frame properly, sexual assault and rape will continue to plague campuses.

That being said, Quinn insisted the language is written so it is “completely inclusive” for all involved, including members of the LGBT community.

“Every unwanted sexual encounter, as is the case at SUNY, is covered,” Quinn said. “There are not particular sex acts that are not covered and sex acts that are covered — that is not the legislative case at all.”

Meanwhile, involving law enforcement remains an option, just not for the college administration.

“It is a survivor’s choice to go to the police,” Quinn said. “It is never government’s choice to mandate that. That does not take the power or the voice away from survivors. They have the right if they so choose to go to college police, local police or the state police. That decision rests with them 100 percent.”

As for the definition of affirmative consent in the legislation, Quinn said the language, which was already in place at large university centers like SUNY Albany, have been effective.

“We have seen it be a much more effective set of definitions than other college campuses that we have seen at other college campuses,” she said.

Though time is short with the legislative session ending on June 17, Quinn said she is “extraordinarily optimistic” the bill will be approved.

“This will be the toughest rape and sexual assault campus law in the country,” she said. “When we do it, we’ll get the rest of the states in the union to do and bring a greater level of safety to our college campuses.”

An Open Government Meeting, Sparsely Attended

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office today is moving forward with a meeting led by Counsel Alphonso David to discuss email and record retention policy as well as a review of open-government laws.

Only, attendance at the event, to be held at the governor’s Manhattan office at 10 a.m., will be sparsely attended.

Confirmed attendees include the attorney general’s office, the state comptroller’s office and an Assembly Republican lawmaker from western New York who is appear by video conference.

Cuomo’s office did invite the legislative leadership in both chambers to attend the event as well as Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. All declined (The Senate Democratic press office and the Cuomo press team had a lively back and forth over the Stewart-Cousins invite).

“We are disappointed the Senate and Assembly majorities, both with new leadership, have expressed no willingness to reform longstanding inequities in New York’s Freedom of Information laws, or adopt uniform email and document retention policies,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “We are hopeful that they reconsider.”

Also not attending is the state’s foremost expert on open-government issues: Robert Freeman.

The executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government who reporters and members of the public frequently turn to for his encyclopedic knowledge on freedom of information laws told the Capital Tonight team he’s on vacation.

Even if he wasn’t, Freeman said he did not receive an invitation for the event.

The event was first announced in March after Cuomo took criticism for the state moving forward with an email retention policy that deletes messages after 90-days that are not saved.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office had a similar policy in place, which he announced would go under review hours before Cuomo distanced himself from the retention policy.

Golden Affirms Support For Mayoral Control In NYC (Updated X2)

Extending mayoral control of New York City schools picked up key Republican support on Thursday as Brooklyn Sen. Martin Golden announced support for keeping the arrangement in place.

Golden, in a statement, re-affirmed his support for mayoral control, though he did not say how long it should be extended.

Updated: Golden, on Twitter, says he endorses three or more years for extending mayoral control.

Updated X2: Golden’s office now says the number of years for the extension is still under mayoral control and the initial tweet was deleted.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initially this year sought a permanent extension of mayoral control; the Assembly this week approved a bill that would have it expire after three years.

De Blasio, of course, has not necessarily seen eye to eye with Senate Republicans politically. The GOP conference did little to oppose efforts to give their political ally and major campaign contributor Michael Bloomberg a longer extension for mayoral control than what is being discussed for de Blasio.

“In my days in the New York City Council, I worked with students, teachers and families under a system governed by the Board of Education,” Golden said in a statement. “And now as a New York State Senator, I continue to address the needs of my schools and my students under a system of mayoral control. Confidently, I can tell you that the system has and continues to work better since mayoral control was enacted, and I am proud to support this renewal.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement released on Sunday indicated he backed unspecified reforms to mayoral control.

Flanagan has also said he’s turning to the Republican conference members who represent New York City to help him on the issue — that includes Golden, Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza and Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who sits with the GOP in the Senate.

Schneiderman’s Office Releases Unsealed Attica Documents

The state attorney general’s office on Thursday released the previously unseen portions of an investigative report on the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility.

The initial report, dubbed the Meyer Report, had been released in December 1975 as a stand-alone volume. But volumes two and three, a total of 46 pages, had been sealed.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013 requested a state court unseal the report in 2013, which was granted on conditions: References to relating to evidence, testimony and witness matters or those related to grand jury proceedings were redacted.

“Today, we are shining new light on one of the darkest chapters of our history,” said Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs. “We hope that, with the release of the Meyer Report, we can bring the families of Attica uprising victims closer to closure and help future generations of Americans learn from this tragic event.”

Files related to the Attica uprising not part of the grand jury proceeding will be sent to the New York State Archives for permanent preservation.

The uprising at the Wyoming County prison began with inmates at the facility seizing control and demanding better living conditions.

After four days of negotiations, then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered the State Police to retake the prison, resulting in the deaths of at least 43 people.

Meyer Report Vol 2 and 3 by Nick Reisman

NYC Republican Leaders Back Pataki For President

The five Republican borough leaders in New York City are backing George Pataki’s likely bid to run for president in a statement released on Thursday.

The statement from the Republican chairs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens was released by We The People, Not Washington, the super PAC formed by the former governor.

“After having served this great state as Governor for 12 years with honor and integrity, it is a privilege for us to enthusiastically encourage Governor George Pataki to enter the race to seek the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America,” the chairs said in a statement.

Pataki, a former three term governor from 1995 through 2007, is expected to make his presidential intentions official on May 28 in New Hampshire.

He will join a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates that is expected to grow to nearly 20 by this summer.