Education

Vast Majority Of School Districts Propose Budgets Within Cap

Ninety-eight percent of the state’s school districts have submitted proposed budgets that plan to live within the state’s cap on property tax increases, according to an analysis by the Association of School Business Officials.

The cap, linked to the rate of inflation, stands at 1.26 percent statewide with some exceptions.

Based on information sent to the association, 15 school districts have proposed overriding the cap, the lowest since the cap took effect in the 2011-12 school year.

School districts and other education advocates have complained the cap is difficult to override, as well as tying it to inflation, which has been largely flat over the last six years.

“School district leaders continue to manage their finances in a prudent and cost effective manner that reflects community priorities at a cost that the public can support,” said Michael Borges, the group’s executive director. “School districts hope the Legislature will support a state Budget that includes a combination of mandate relief and increased aid that will allow them to provide a sound basic education to all students in the state.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan includes a $960 million increase in education aid.

1488809905_Tax Cap 2017 Report by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Report: Per Pupil Spending In NY Schools Tops $22K

A report released Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the median per pupil spending in New York schools stood at $22,658, but the average cost of educating a student varies by region.

The report, which analyzed regional education spending and trends, found the highest median of per-student spending in New York was in the mid-Hudson Valley, where schools spent $26,636. In western New York, it was the lowest, $19,776 per pupil during the 2014-15 school year.

Schools have over the last decade have seen their spending rise by 1.4 percent when adjusted for inflation, or $3.9 billion. Overall, spending outside of New York City school districts rose from $27.1 billion in 2004-05 to $37.6 billion in 2014-15.

“Investments in New York’s public schools are vital at both the state and local level,” DiNapoli said. “By examining regional comparisons and trends in school district revenues, expenditures and student demographics, we can better inform the decisions of state lawmakers, education stakeholders and taxpayers.”

Not surprisingly, the report found wealthier districts relied more heavily on property tax revenue. On Long Island, schools there draw 68 percent of their revenue from property taxes and other locally based sources. Meanwhile, in rural areas like the Mohawk Valley and the North Country, schools there received a third of their funding from local sources like the property tax.

The full report can be found here.

Report: Average School Pension Tops $68K

The average pension collected by a teacher or school administrator who has retired last year was $68,334, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The think tank’s public sector payroll analysis found the average public school employee who is eligible for a pension of more than $100,000 has doubled over the last six years — from 1,255 to 3,010.

Most of those six-figure pension benefits are for downstate school districts in the New York City metropolitan region.

Statewide, the top pension earner is James Feltman, who received $326,394. He retired from the Commack Union district in 2010.

The new data can be found here.

AQE: NY Violates Children’s Human Rights With School Funding

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. 

AQE: $2.1B Is Nice, But Why Not More?

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.”

NYSASBO Proposes Update to Foundation Aid Formula

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.

Paladino To Represent Trump At National Education Forum

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.

Elia Pledges Continued Oversight Of East Ramapo

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.

‘International Search’ Begins For New SUNY Chief

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.

Education Group Praises Testing Transparency In NY

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.