New York State School Boards Association


June 24, 2013



The tide began to turn in April, when the state budget included twice the state education aid “allowed” under law that indexed aid to personal income growth.  It was the third largest aid increase in state history, coming out of the largest economic recession in the past 50 years.  It was distributed in a way that began to recognize the individual economic circumstances of school districts.  Just as importantly, it contained no cost shifts from the state onto our schools and (with the exception of a change in transportation times for New York City) no new mandates.  Yet, veteran school board advocates know that new state aid is frequently accompanied by new directives on how to spend it, setting the stage for the “No New Mandates!” campaign.   

No New Mandates!  was a NYSSBA led coalition effort urging lawmakers to give our schools and local governments a reprieve from new and unfunded responsibilities.  Schools budgets were already set, making the prospect of implementing new state requirements particularly burdensome.  With educational programs and services at risk of being displaced by well meaning, but harmful state laws, No New Mandates!  asked the public to clearly express their desire to be free of newly imposed, unfunded state mandates.  NYSSBA enlisted the aid of the Let NY Work coalition and our partners in NYSCOSS, The Business Council, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and others.  We prepared videos, hosted a webinar, issued a robo call, conducted press events, wrote letters to editors across the state and used social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  We repeatedly wrote to each legislator about the need for restraint and we issued “Mandate Alerts!” on every bad bill.  We sent every legislator a watch list of 80 potential new mandates.  We empowered members of our organizations and the public to become involved by writing sample telephone scripts and emails to legislators. 

In the end, No New Mandates! accomplished its purpose.  Of the 80 potential new mandates, 55 failed in both houses, including new curriculum mandates on CPR instruction and requiring New York to join the interstate military compact for education.  21 failed to pass both houses, resulting in only 4 potential new mandates moving to the governor for consideration.  No New Mandates!  will now focus its effort on securing vetoes of those four bills. 

Without question, NYSSBA’s most comprehensive advocacy effort was directed at defeating legislation to expand out-of-school special education placements.   Legislative sponsors of the bill claimed that it merely codified federal law, but even those requesting the bill acknowledged the expanded rights of parents to secure tuition reimbursement for placements deemed inappropriate by Committees on Special Education.  Rarely has the educational community united in such an intense expression of “mutual aid.”  NYSSBA contacted the press, who responded with editorials blasting the bill.  NYSSBA, NYSCOSS, and the Special Education School Administrators issued memos and letters in opposition, with NYSUT joining us in several days of individual legislative meetings. 

You responded in grand fashion, inundating state leaders with phone calls and emails.  The bill failed to muster the needed votes in the Assembly, where the bill never came to the floor for a vote.   Particularly in low wealth districts, this bill would have caused unplanned and dramatic cost increases, resulting in tax cap issues and program cuts.  On behalf of all school districts, NYSSBA thanks our partners and all of you for joining in this vital opposition.  We can all be proud that our efforts have helped schools rebuild after years of underfunding.

Just as importantly, the 2013 session provided positive legislative changes.  Chief among these was the final legislation to allow cooperative purchasing for schools and municipalities.  Now, schools are free to join together and with towns, counties and other states in sharing purchases.  It’s estimated that our schools will save $200 million per year by the time they fully implement the new approach.   NYSSBA priority legislation requiring transparency from providers in health insurance claims data for schools passed both houses.  Legislation also passed requiring the local cost of regulatory mandates to be made public in the rulemaking process.  BOCES will now be able to contract with public libraries to install high speed telecommunications services and Syracuse will be able to fund Phase II of their school renovations. 

Schools will be able to finance the extraordinary expenses resulting from disasters and school districts and BOCES will be able to create repair reserve funds.  The law allowing schools to amend their transportation contracts was extended for three years.  The mandate relief provided for Committees on Special Education has been expanded to Committees on Pre-School Special Education and students will now be allowed to carry sunscreen with a note from their parents. BOCES will be able to enter into 20 year leases, rather than the current 10 year limitation, resulting in savings and stability to both BOCES and their component school districts.  Legislation separating evaluators and providers of special education services passed both houses and, with NYSSBA’s help, a number of individual school districts were successful in securing needed legislative relief. 

Shortly, your NYSSBA Governmental Relations team will provide you with a complete listing of legislative efforts for 2013.  You’ll be able to see results for the NYSSBA legislative priorities, bills that we were successful in opposing and those that passed despite our best efforts.  The legislative session is over, but the work continues.  We will seek vetoes of legislation that we oppose on your behalf.  All in all, the true significance of this legislative session was the way the state legislature addresses public educational issues.  Significant assistance without attaching strings is a new concept and we commend the legislature for their responsiveness to your calls for help. 

State leaders did not come to this position without your steadfast efforts, those of your NYSSBA team and our colleagues.  While the state legislature may have learned a significant lesson in restraint, we learned our own lesson on the value of collaboration.  When NYSSBA called for help in defeating the special ed placement bill in the closing days of session, the NYSSBA membership stepped forward.  Local school boards associations joined the fight and the NYSSBA Board of Directors made it a personal mission.  Friends from the business community and taxpayers to special education practitioners, the Statewide School Finance Consortium and the Rural Schools Association leant their support.  A new wave of former school board members turned legislators led the charge in their respective houses, bringing their practical experience to their colleagues.  The result saved our schools from further encroachment on local educational programs.

There is work left to be done and as always, we need to prepare for next year.  But thanks to your dedication and that of a wide range of partners, 2013 may yet be the year of No New Mandates!  

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