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Statement of New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer on the Legislative Session

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June 26, 2015


This year's difficult and lengthy legislative session will be remembered as a mixed bag of accomplishments and disappointments. 

We thank lawmakers for rejecting the education investment tax credit and avoiding an increase in the charter school cap. Both proposals would have been damaging to the state's public schools, which serve the vast majority of students. 

Advocacy Alert - Senate Bullet Aid

June 26, 2015

Late last night the Senate passed Resolution No. 3050, which allocates more than $15 million to dozens of school districts, libraries and not-for-profit organizations for  fiscal year 2015-16. This funding, commonly referred to a “bullet aid,” is in addition to the state aid amounts approved as part of this year’s budget and does not flow through traditional state aid formulas.

To find a listing of this year’s Senate “bullet aid” list, please click below:

Regents express doubts on receivership

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The state Board of Regents reluctantly adopted regulations to implement a law that empowers superintendents and state-approved receivers to overhaul operations in underperforming schools, but the board rejected language that tags the schools as "failing."

Instead, the regulations approved by the Regents will designate the schools as "struggling" or "persistently struggling."

The schools to be targeted for receivership under the new law are those that have been designated, under previous terminology, "priority schools." More than 150 schools are believed to be in the potential category of struggling and 20 to 30 could qualify for consideration as persistently struggling, according to the department staff.

Superintendents could serve as receivers, which means they, not the school board, would have final say on academic and budgetary decisions for these schools regarding implementation of the school intervention plan. Under the receivership law adopted by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, receivers would have extensive power to change school budgets, programs and curriculum, re-staff schools, request changes to teacher contracts or even convert a school to a charter school, subject to a parent vote.

Trading, Albany-style

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

Lynn L. Lenhardt
NYSSBA President

Do you remember trading when you were a child? Maybe it was baseball cards, coins, or stuffed animals. Many adults trade the same kinds of objects, which are called "collectibles."

Trading is just fine for Olympic pins. But it's not appropriate for major pieces of legislation. Yet, by all accounts, that appears to happen all the time at the state Capitol.

Swapping major pieces of legislation (such as extending rent control and the tax cap) may be a way to get legislation passed. But it also results in bad public policy.

First, laws are too important and serious to be dealt with in such a baldly political way. The benchmarks for supporting a piece of legislation should be whether or not a proposal would be good public policy, what effect it would have on a lawmaker's constituents, and if it's consistent with the legislator's principles.

U.S. DOE denies NYS waiver on testing of disabled students

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Federal education officials have denied New York's request for more leeway to test disabled students based on their developmental level rather than their chronological age.

In a letter to Acting Education Commissioner Elizabeth Berlin this month, the U.S. Department of Education also rejected the state's request to give new English speakers two years, instead of just one, before they are required to take the state's grades 3-8 English language arts exams.

Both requests were aimed at reducing stress on students and yielding more useful results. State officials say that federal rules that require testing students at their chronological age, with narrow exceptions for students with very severe disabilities, set up some disabled students for failure and turn the tests into stressful guessing games. School officials in districts with many immigrant students say one year often is not enough for new arrivals to be ready to take language arts exams written in English.

The federal testing requirements are in regulations associated with the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.

Former BOE member Marcellino leads Senate Education Committee

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

With the selection of Sen. Carl L. Marcellino as chairman, a Long Island Republican remains at the helm of the state Senate Education Committee.

Marcellino, 72, succeeds Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown), who has become majority leader.

Before his election to the Senate in 1995, Marcellino was Oyster Bay town clerk, and he also served from 1984 to 1986 on the Syosset school board. Before that, he worked for 20 years as a science teacher and administrator in New York City public schools.

That included a stint in the mid-1970s as an assistant principal at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, where one of the students was Catherine T. Nolan, now his counterpart as the chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

Full effect of changes in Lobbying Act on school boards remains to be seen

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By the New York State Association of School Attorneys

Buried in the 2015-16 state budget is a provision that makes the New York State Lobbying Act apply to school districts.

Because the Lobbying Act now applies to those who seek to "lobby" school districts by seeking to influence official actions, school board members and other school officials should be aware of the basic aspects of the act. School boards may want to consider amending their codes of ethics to include a reference to the Lobbying Act (Article 1-A of the Legislative Law), particularly with regard to the receipt of gifts from those seeking to influence official actions.

Currently, there are questions about the effects of the changes, including whether all school districts will be affected, and which specific actions will be considered "lobbying."

Let's get to work

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

MaryEllen Elia
Commissioner of Education

On July 6, I will officially begin my service as New York's next commissioner of education. I am deeply grateful to the Board of Regents for the trust they have placed in me to succeed in this critically important venture. And I am grateful to many of you for the well-wishes and offers of advice and assistance that I received. I assure you, I will turn to NYSSBA often for your expertise and perspective.

As school board members, you have a unique perspective on how schools and school districts work. The scope and breadth of your responsibilities are vast. You garner and sustain support for public education. Together with your superintendent, you set expectations for your administrators, your teachers and your students. You recognize achievement and demand continuous improvement. You find the resources to get the job done. You contain costs. And you bring accountability for your district's academic achievement and for its financial integrity.

Like you, I also know about the challenges of running a classroom, a school and a school district. I was born in Rochester, and began my career in education as a social studies teacher in the Sweet Home School District way back in 1970. I taught for 19 years before moving on to various administrative positions. Most recently, I served as the superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. Hillsborough is the nation's eighth largest school district - with 206,000 very diverse students, 30,000 employees, and a multi-billion dollar budget.

So, while many challenges ahead are daunting, I am confident that my 45 years in public education have prepared me well for the role of commissioner. I'm doing everything possible to get up to speed, so I can hit the ground running from Day 1.

The trumpet that saved my life

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By Sylvester Cleary

As a young boy, I lived on the east side of Buffalo, three doors down from the Horse Shoe Bar. Every Friday and Saturday night, sounds came into our apartment like clockwork.

At 7 p.m., light laughter.

At 8 p.m., loud laughter.

Beginning at 9 p.m., there were arguments with vulgar language, followed by fights that would spill out onto the street. By the next morning, someone had been shot, stabbed or beaten, leaving blood everywhere.

You get the idea. It wasn't the greatest neighborhood. As a teen, I knew people who were going to jail, getting shot, or being beaten so badly by gangs that their bodies were permanently damaged.

Regents approve renewable APPR waivers

On Board Online • June 29, 2015

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

A divided Board of Regents has approved technical regulations that will provide the underpinning for the latest version of New York's teacher and principal evaluation system. The board also embraced a process for renewable waivers that could provide districts with an extra year of breathing room to complete new agreements.

The waiver process created by the Regents could become moot if the state Legislature votes to extend the deadline for implementing new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plans. The Senate and Assembly had not acted on proposals as On Board went to press.

"We like the four-month waiver, but we would prefer that state lawmakers extend the statutory deadline without requiring districts to go through the waiver process in the first place," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "Even with the waivers, the system still contains a fatal flaw: direct linkage to state aid increases."

At a June 15 meeting, the 17-member Board of Regents spent hours debating highly technical aspects of recommendations from State Education Department staff. Counter-proposals were submitted by seven Regents: Kathleen Cashin of Brooklyn, Betty Rosa of the Bronx, Judith Chin of Queens, Catherine Collins of Buffalo, Judith Johnson of Rockland County, Beverly Ouderkirk of Morristown in the North Country and Josephine Finn of Sullivan County. All of the dissenters except Finn voted no on adopting the regulations.

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