APPR deadline extended

On Board Online • July 4, 2016

By Julie M. Marlette
Director of Governmental Relations

In the last hours of the 2016 legislative session, legislators continued a now-annual tradition of changing the law on the evaluations of teachers and principals.

While legislators did not heed calls from NYSSBA and other education organizations to stop linking eligibility for state aid increases to compliance with the law on annual professional performance reviews (APPR), they changed a key deadline.

Districts now have until Dec. 31 to have approved APPR plans that are consistent with a 2015 law (Section 3012-d).

Separately, the state Board of Regents changed regulations to permit districts to apply for waivers from requirements to use independent evaluators. (See story, page 4).

An initial reprieve came in the form of waivers from the Board of Regents. Action taken in the fall of 2015 eventually allowed districts to negotiate throughout 2015, requiring that the newly approved plans be in place by Sept. 1, 2016. While this gave districts more time, it also put both 2015 and 2016 state aid increases in jeopardy.

Beginning in November 2015, NYSSBA began a long series of communications with legislators, first seeking a full de-link of APPR and state aid (see NYSSBA's 2016 legislative and budget request at ).

While the idea of de-linking aid from APPR was attractive to some legislators, it became clear that this this did not appeal to all legislators or Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In their one-house budgets, the Assembly included the language to de-link APPR and state aid and the Senate did not.

In an effort to find a compromise, NYSSBA advanced another proposal: Allow districts to operate under either an approved 3012-c or a 3012-d plan, and still maintain their state aid increases under either scenario.

Ultimately, NYSSBA was joined in advocating for this proposal by five other education groups representing superintendents, teachers, principals and school business officials, as well as the statewide PTA (read the coalition memo at ).

However, the Legislature did not include this language - or any language - amending APPR in the state budget. As a result, $2.3 billion in total state aid would have been at risk if districts did not have a plan in place by Sept. 1, 2016.

Until the legislative session ended at 5 a.m. on June 28, NYSSBA pursued the possibility of other legislation to allow districts to operate under either an approved 3012-c or 3012-d plan. All told, nearly 1,500 letters were sent to state policy makers from NYSSBA members and partners supporting NYSSBA proposed changes.

The first sign of progress came in early June, when a bill (A.10569) was advanced by Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) that would have allowed districts to operate under an approved 3012-c or 3012-d plan until 2019 and maintain their state aid increases. This bill (S.8034) was later introduced by newly elected Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau County). Despite Nolan's support, this bill did not see action in either house.

However, as the session moved toward closure, conversations about APPR continued, but it remained unclear if the two houses and the governor would be able to come to consensus.

The final resolution came in the last hours of the session as a part of the omnibus bill known as the "big ugly." Language was included that added four months to the deadline by which districts must have their approved 3012-d plans in place, giving them until Dec. 31, 2016.

"This delay provides much needed breathing room for districts," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "Together with action by the Board of Regents, districts now have more options in implementing the APPR law."

But NYSSBA has serious reservations about the current law, he said. "Unfortunately, districts still must negotiate new plans with teacher and principal unions, possibly making concessions in other areas, and must obtain approval from the commissioner of education before the deadline or risk losing state aid."

As of the writing of this article, 193 districts have approved 3012-d plans in place. A complete listing of approved plans and aid at risk can be viewed here: .

NYSSBA President Susan Bergtraum said she remains concerned about a mandate in 3012-d to use a new matrix to determine the overall composite score of each educator. It's complicated and confusing, she said. And apart from that, she said there is a lingering question about all of the state's actions to modify teacher and principal evaluations: "How, exactly, will all this improve public education?"

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