Jan 10th - 6:10 am
Hundreds of education advocates will descend on the state Capitol today for the first official Lobby Day of the 2017 session.
They’re calling on the governor and legislative leaders to commit to a two-year full phase-in of the $4.3 billion worth of Foundation Aid that is owed to schools as a result of the 10-year-old Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement.
To accompany their lobby day, which is expected to draw some 500 parents and students to Albany, the Alliance for Quality Education has released a hard-hitting video that casts the school funding disparity in starkly racial terms.
In the video, an advance copy of which was provided to the SoP, AQE’s advocacy director Zakiyah Ansari says:
“We have asked children to shrink themselves, to be less than they could be, because the state won’t fund their potential.”
“Across the state, the constitutional rights of children have been violated. We have witnessed systemic racism and economic oppression that has rocked our public education system.”
“Governor Cuomo, you and the Senate Majority have chosen to continue the violation of the human rights of our children by not funding our schools.”
In an email accompanying the video, which is being blasted out to AQE supporters this morning, the organization’s legislative director, Jasmine Gripper, says fully funding the CFE settlement is a matter of “racial justice.”
She notes that 58 percent of the money in question is “owed to black and brown students,” adding: “(T)he failure to provide the funding perpetuates systemic racism in education.”
The AQE has launched a letter writing campaign to Cuomo, which warns of an impending effort by the incoming Trump administration to “strip resources from our students.”
That’s something both the NYC teachers union and the AFT have been sounding the alarm on as the president-elect’s Education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, faces a confirmation hearing in D.C. tomorrow.
The effort by AQE comes as Cuomo has been trying to position himself as the antidote to Trump and a champion of progressive values in what is widely viewed as preparation for a potential White House run in 2020.
Liberal Democrats and their progressive organizing allies have been pressuring Cuomo on a number of fronts, raising the specter of Trump and calling on the governor to be a “true” leader by embracing their causes. Now we can official add education funding to that list.
Dec 12th - 4:01 pm
The Alliance for Quality Education on Monday cheered the $2.1 billion spending increase for education as proposed by the state Board of Regents, which also includes a $1.47 billion hike in foundation aid.
But the AQE also in a statement said the $2.1 billion is merely a “good start” that should see foundation aid boosted by $2 billion alone.
“The Regents proposal is a good start but the state needs to get real about finally delivering a quality education for every child; this will require at least at least $2 billion in new Foundation Aid this year,” says Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Director & Statewide Education Advocate at the Alliance for Quality Education.
“The Regents are right to call for full-day Pre-K funding because two-thirds of four-year-olds in most of the state are denied full-day Pre-K. Community schools were left out of this plan, despite the success of these schools at improving student outcomes. We need the Governor and the Legislature to fund community schools, not abandon them.
Education spending is second only to health care costs when it comes to the state budget and is typically one of the largest perennial battles over spending in the state budget each year.
Over the last several budget cycles, there have been increases in education aid, but those hikes have fallen short of what the group has sought.
“The biggest problem facing New York’s students is the failure of Governor Cuomo and the Republican State Senate to deliver adequate educational opportunity for students in high-needs urban and rural communities,” Gripper said.
“Fully funding the Foundation Aid formula would deliver that funding and it would significantly improve educational outcomes. Groundbreaking research shows that a sustained 10 percent increase in funding results in an 11 percent increase in graduation rates, greater success college and almost a 10 percent increase in earnings for students as adults.”
Nov 16th - 1:48 pm
Education advocates are calling for school districts across the state to be funded the $3.8 billion they are owed in Foundation Aid money.
In addition to having that money funded to schools over the span of 3 years, the New York State Association of School Business Officials also proposes an update to the foundation aid formula, which is nearly a decade old. Meanwhile, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cumoo are facing the headwinds of decreasing revenue from the state’s personal income tax, while school districts continue to grapple with the state’s cap on property tax increases, which has been more or less flat since it took effect in 2012.
Michael Borges discussed the proposal and the challenges facing schools in the coming year on Capital Tonight.
Oct 21st - 7:00 am
From the memo:
Buffalo Public School Board member Carl Paladino, who continues to be a staunch defender of Donald Trump even as fellow Republicans shy away from the increasingly controversial presidential nominee, is taking to the air – literally – to represent his candidate in Florida.
The honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign will act as a surrogate for the candidate at the Council of the Great City Schools 60th annual fall conference, which is being held this week in Miami.
Paladino said more than 1,000 big city school leaders from across the country will be there. The debate, moderated by Dan Rather, will also be live-streamed at 2:30 p.m.
The Buffalo businessman will likely talk about privatizing public schools – a focus of his since becoming a school board member.
“The only solution for dysfunctional urban school districts which promote the urban cycle of poverty is to dismantle them and replace them with a competitive system based in charters, vouchers and tax credits,” Paladino said.
The surrogate for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is Mildred Otero, a former adviser for the nominee when she was a U.S. senator for New York. Otero currently is the vice-president of Leadership for Educational Equity.
The panel also includes superintendents from Miami-Dade County and Philadelphia and a school board vice president from Cincinnati.
Aug 22nd - 11:30 am
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia pledged in a radio interview on Monday continued oversight of the troubled East Ramapo school district, saying she plans to be in one of the district’s schools on the first day of the fall term.
“We have plans in place,” she said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “I was certainly involved last year as Mr. Wolcott and his team worked and I intend to continue to be so.”
The school year in East Ramapo is starting with a new state oversight monitor, Charles Szuberla, a retired deputy commissioner, who replaces Dennis Wolcott. A report from Szuberla is expected by the start of the new year, Elia said.
“We’re working through all of that,” she said. “We anticipate in January, it will be about halfway, he’ll be giving us a report and we’re going to share that with the Legislature and the governor’s office.”
The problems that stem from the East Ramapo troubles are myriad and complex, but essentially boil down to tensions between the orthodox Jewish community that holds power in the district and the district’s minority majority populations.
The fight over East Ramapo has extended to Albany, where lawmakers are split over giving the state monitor enhanced powers to oversee the district.
An acute display of the tensions, one school board member was not sworn in, an incident district officials insisted as a mistake.
Elia, in the interview, said she would continue to review the district’s budget as well as make sure the district was spending state funds appropriately.
“We’re going to make sure there is public oversight of the budget in East Ramapo,” she said.
Jul 12th - 4:16 pm
The Board of Trustees at the State University of New York on Tuesday announced the launching of an international search to replace outgoing Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
The search will be led by Board of Trustees Chairman Carl McCall.
“SUNY is not only one of New York’s greatest economic and intellectual assets, but over the last six years we have worked together to make this a national model of public higher education that our students deserve,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“As the search for a new Chancellor commences, I have every confidence that the top-level search committee assembled by Chairman McCall will identify the best candidate to continue to build on the momentum started under Chancellor Zimpher and help lead SUNY to an even brighter future.”
The search committee includes the SUNY trustees, five SUNY college and university presidents and notable alumni, including TV personality Al Roker, state operations director Jim Malatras and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
Zimpher is due to step down from the post on June 30, 2017.
Jul 12th - 12:19 pm
High Achievement New York, a group that has been supportive of the Common Core standards, praised on Tuesday the state’s transparency in releasing some English Language Arts and math test questions this year.
The state Department of Education this year decided to release 75 percent of the administered test questions, along with all of the individual constructed response questions. That is more information released than in prior years, a move the group says allows parents and teachers to view students’ constructed responses and also give feedback.
The effort to release questions won praise from business leaders who have been supportive of education reform efforts.
“Transparency in testing is one of the keys to ensuring our children receive the absolute best education possible,” said Heather Briccetti, The Business Council of New York State president.
“These findings cement the fact that New York is leading the way in open testing and should serve to calm the nerves of parents and educators who have expressed concerns about higher standards. We understand and appreciate why the rollout of higher standards and associated assessments put people on edge, and we hope this report helps assuage those concerns and put us all on the same page.”
In deciding its analysis, High Achievement assessed other large states like New York in planning, the clarity of the release plans to the public, how many questions being released has increased and whether the release of the questions has been reliably consistnet.
New York, the group found is tops in the ranking when compared to states like Texas, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Virginia.
Jul 11th - 1:05 pm
The Board of Regents on Monday backed a package of eligibility requirements for $75 million in grants to transition struggling schools into community schools.
The approval at the Regents meeting on Monday is being billed as a first in creating a regulatory process for grant eligibility. The money for grants was included in the 2016-17 state budget.
All told, 73 schools are eligible to apply for granting funding for community school transition.
Much of what was approved in the guidelines calls for input and communication from school leaders with parents and teachers as well as community members.
Under the rules backed by the board, grant applications must include detailed plans and timelines for parent and community engagement as well as information sessions in the form of public meetings.
Schools must also provide written notices and communications for planning, implementation and the operation of community schools to parents, teachers and school personnel.
“When families can thrive, so can students and the need for community schools in areas with persistently struggling and struggling schools is severe,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa. “These are, for the most part, high-need districts where community schools become a lifeline for families. As a former community school principal myself, I know these grants will help struggling and persistently struggling schools make the transition to community schools.”
May 18th - 10:27 am
Virtually all of the school district budgets up for consideration by voters on Tuesday were approved, education officials announced on Wednesday morning.
The state School Boards Association reported 98.5 percent of budgets were approved. The New York State United Teachers union pegged the passage rate at 99 percent. Only 10 districts voted down their budgets.
Overall, 638 districts approved budgets.
“We are extremely pleased with the vote of confidence in our public schools by New Yorkers in every region of our state,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee. “The near-unanimous approval of school budgets reflects the trust, appreciation and respect that parents and community members have for the teachers and the education professionals who work tirelessly each and every day to ensure our students receive a quality education.”
The budgets were approved amid a record-low cap on property tax increases. Of the districts that approved budgets, 28 voted to surpass the limit in tax levy growth, set at nearly zero this year given the flat rate of inflation.
The average tax levy this year was 0.7 percent.
“The question is, will the state be able to sustain that commitment going forward?” state School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer said in a statement. “The tax cap may be helping to keep taxes down, but it comes at a cost to our schools, which now need the state to make up for the funding they cannot raise locally.”
May 9th - 2:43 pm
A report released on Monday by the New York State Association of School Business Officials shows budgetary spending is expected to increase by 2.2 percent, with a largely flat tax levy growth of 0.9 percenty.
The report released by the association comes as voters in school districts across the state are set to consider education budgets this month.
It also comes as school districts and local governments are budgeting within a tax cap with the lowest allowable limit in the levy increase since the measure first took effect in 2012.
The state levy increase stands at 0.7 percent for schools. The report considered 669 independent school districts, not the Big 5 city schools that are not required to file this information.
“School leaders, particularly school business officials, have crafted budgets that continue to incorporate efficiencies and cost saving measures, while delivering a quality educational program acceptable to the voters,” said Michael Borges, the NYSASBO executive director.
Local government and school district officials have been pushing for changes to make it easier to budget within the cap, though that is unlikely to occur this legislative session.
School districts in this year’s budget did receive a boost in foundation aid as well as a complete end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
“Now that the GEA is finally gone for good, state policymakers need to turn their attention to making sure the Foundation Aid formula operates as intended and drives additional resources to high need districts facing enrollment growth,” Borges said.