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2015 NYSSBA Budget Analysis

April 8, 2015

Last week the legislature enacted the 2015-16 State Budget which included the following:

  • A school aid increase of - $1.3 billion
    • GEA Restoration - $603 million
    • Foundation Aid increase - $428 million
    • Expense-based aids - $269 million
  • An expansion of the educator probationary period from 3 to 4 years
  • Improvements to the tenured educator disciplinary system
  • A school receivership system
  • An overhaul of the APPR system, including the required use of independent evaluators
    • A link between the adoption and certification of updated teacher evaluations by November 2015 in order to be in the receipt of a school aid increase

Links To:

  • The Governmental Relations Team’s Analysis of Key Components
  • The NYSSBA 2015 State Budget Analysis Webinar
  • Local Government Efficiency Plans

Managing State Assessment Opt Outs

School districts across the state are facing increasing assertions by parents that they plan on opting their children out of the State’s grades 3-8 assessments as NYSUT’s President Karen Magee has called for all parents to opt their children out of such tests.

The New York State School Boards Association is receiving numerous calls regarding the choices school districts have in managing this situation. Although there are no definitive answers to all of the questions, there are some things that we do know.

'Digital citizenship' needed in today's high tech schools

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Your district has installed broadband Internet access throughout its schools and purchased hundreds of laptop computers and other devices. The latest educational software is on order, and students are anxiously awaiting their first school day with unfettered access to their smart phones.

You are on track to become a perfect model of tech- inspired educational innovation, right?

Perhaps not, if your district has overlooked a critical piece of technological infrastructure: a well-established culture of "digital citizenship."

"That's step one," says Colton-Pierrepont Superintendent Joseph Kardash.

Stressing digital citizenship, Kardash says, means cultivating ethical principles and responsible online habits that will stay with students long after they graduate.

State education aid to rise 6 percent

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

New York school districts will get a $1.3 billion increase in state aid as part of the 2015-16 state budget. The aid amounts to a 6 percent increase from the current year.

Included in the state aid package is a $428 million increase in foundation aid - the largest unrestricted aid category supporting public school district expenditures in New York. At a total of $15.9 billion, foundation aid accounts for nearly 70 percent of total state aid statewide.

The largest component of the aid increase is a $603 million restoration to the state's onerous gap elimination adjustment (GEA), the amount which is subtracted from each school district's aid allocation to help plug the state's own budget holes. The budget also provides $269 million to fund increases in expense-based aids, including building, transportation, BOCES and special education aids.

"We're pleased with the increase in foundation aid and the GEA restoration," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "School districts need a significant investment of state support to help make sure students stay on track to graduate college- and career-ready while minimizing the burden on local taxpayers. Nonetheless, it's incongruous that the state claims to have a surplus while at the same time skimming aid from school districts to plug a non-existent budget gap."

New York dethrones Bay State in proficiency standards

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Gayle Simidian
Research Analyst

New York leads the nation in the rigor of its state proficiency standards, according to a ranking in Education Next magazine.

New York was one of five states with more rigorous standards than the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Wisconsin was ranked second, followed by Utah, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Massachusetts, which was ranked number one in 2013, fell to sixth place. Alabama placed last.

The report, the sixth of its kind, analyzed changes in state proficiency standards by examining the difference between 2011-13 annual state test proficiency rates and NAEP proficiency rates gathered from fourth and eighth grade test results.

Please, stop lowering expectations

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

When I entered ninth grade, my father forced me to take the only course I ever flunked: Latin I. I dreaded every moment spent in that class, where my teacher's performance was as abysmal as mine. For the first and only time in my life I went to summer school, taught by a different instructor, where I aced Latin I, which led me to actually enjoy Latin II and III.

I learned two lessons from that experience: (1) good teaching makes a big difference, and (2) failure can be a powerful motivator.

Soon we will see if the state Board of Regents and the state Legislature concur with my philosophy, or if they will instead cave in to pleas to weaken state standards.

That's because the Board of Regents is considering yet another delay in requiring passage of new teacher certification exams, while state lawmakers are weighing a bill that would codify in law the right of students to refuse to take the state assessments in grades 3-8.

As teachers union promotes test refusals, Tisch says opting out is 'terrible mistake'

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

While the president of New York State United Teachers is urging parents to withdraw their children from the upcoming math and English tests for students in grades 3-8, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is strenuously defending the exams and their usefulness.

"I believe that test refusal is a terrible mistake because it eliminates important information about how our kids are doing," Tisch said in a speech to the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

"Why on earth would you not want to know whether your child is on track for success in the fifth grade or success in college?" she asked before expanding on the theme with several more rhetorical questions:

"Why would you not want to know how your child and your school are doing compared to other children in the district, region and state? Why would you not want to know the progress of our multi-billion dollar investment in education? Why would you not want to know whether all students are making progress, not just the lucky few?"

SED warns school board about skipping state tests

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

A Western New York district is considering refusing to administer state math and reading tests later this month while a Long Island district has dropped the idea on advice of its attorney.

The Comsewogue school board in Suffolk County scrapped a test refusal resolution on the advice of legal counsel, Superintendent Joseph Rella told Newsday.

The Kenmore-Tonawanda board in Erie County, however, voted unanimously to "seriously consider" refusing to administer the tests and refusing to use the test results in teacher evaluations.

In response, state education officials have warned Ken-Ton board members that a district-led boycott of the testing could result in the commissioner invoking powers to remove board members from office for "willful violation" of the law.

Legislature enacts receivership model

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Paul Heiser
Senior Research Analyst

Schools that have struggled to raise student achievement for years face the prospect of being taken over and restructured by an outside entity such as a charter school operator or nonprofit organization under the enacted state budget plan.

Under the new receivership plan, any public school that is among the lowest achieving five percent in the state ("priority schools") for at least three consecutive years will be designated as "failing." These schools will be allowed to continue operating for two years with a locally developed intervention plan, and their superintendents will have the powers of a receiver, including the authority to override decisions of the board (except as relates to the employment of the superintendent).

Public schools that have been deemed priority schools for 10 years or more will be designated as "persistently failing." These schools may continue to operate for one year with a locally developed intervention plan, and their superintendents will have the powers of a receiver, including the authority to override the decisions of the board. The budget allocates $75 million to support implementation of turnaround plans for persistently failing schools.

In both the case of "failing" and "persistently failing" schools, improvement plans must have measurable benchmarks for improvement, such as student attendance, graduation and dropout rates. Each school's progress will be reviewed at the end of the one- or two-year period, at which time the school may remain in operation with the superintendent acting as the receiver, be removed from designation or have a third-party receiver appointed.

For districts, it's back to negotiations on teacher evaluation plans

On Board Online • April 6, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Local school districts will need to return to bargaining tables to negotiate new teacher evaluation plans.

Under one of the 2015-16 state budget's major education policy elements, districts must reach accord on their evaluation plans by Nov. 15 or lose their state aid increase for this school year.

The new evaluation structure will include just two components, classroom observations and student performance, with the weight for each yet to be determined by the commissioner of education.

The observation component includes two required subcomponents. The first involves observations by a trained "independent" evaluator, who could be a district employee from another building. The second mandated component would be observations by a principal or other administrator. A third - and optional - component would be an observation by a peer, if agreed to in collective bargaining. The minimum number of annual observations will be determined by the commissioner.

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