New York State School Boards Association

Advocacy Update: Legislature Appoints Regents to New Terms

March 9, 2020

On Thursday, the state legislature, in a joint vote, reappointed Regents Kathleen Cashin, Beverly Ouderkirk, Catherine Collins, Roger Tilles and Lester Young to new 5-year terms, beginning in April.

The legislature also selected Frances Wills to succeed the late Judith Johnson on the Board of Regents. Wills most recently served as the superintendent of Putnam Valley Central School District and retired last June after six years in the role. Prior to that, she served 16 years as Briarcliff Manor's superintendent. Wills will represent the 9th Judicial District, which includes Rockland, Orange, Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.

Call to Action: 2020 Budget Advocacy

Send a message! With less than a week until the Senate and Assembly are expected to formally release their state budget "one-house" proposals in response to the executive budget, it is important to let your legislators know where you stand on the budget. Use the link below to call on your legislators to drastically increase the level of school aid, and reject the proposed consolidation of expense-based aids, as well as, provide your positions on other important budget issues affecting school districts.

Coronavirus State Appropriations

Also last week, the legislature approved Governor Cuomo's request for $40 million in state funding to fight coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as contentious language expanding the executive's authority to respond to the outbreak and other future emergencies. These funds will allow the state to hire additional staff and procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the evolving situation. While not specifically directed to school districts, the fiscal language suggests schools could be made a recipient of a portion of the funding, at the direction of the Governor.

At the federal level, Congress and the administration agreed to a deal that will provide for approximately $8 billion in new funding to help the federal government and states respond to the spread of the coronavirus.

Voting Machines and Budget Votes

Over the past few months, NYSSBA has heard from school districts in more than a dozen counties that they have been informed by their local board of elections that the electronic voting machines traditionally used for the budget vote and school board elections are likely to be unavailable to school districts this spring. For districts that do not have access to voting machines, paper ballots remain the only legal option to conduct such votes/elections.

NYSSBA staff has been exchanging information with both the State Education Department and the state Board of Elections with regard to the issue, and the Governmental Relations team has been having conversations with the legislature in hopes of finding a lasting solution after this year. If your district has not done so yet, we would encourage you to connect with your local board of elections - or those in neighboring counties - regarding the availability of electronic voting machines.

Changes in Regulations for Special Education Hearing Officers

At the Board of Regents meeting last week, the State Education Department officially began the process to address the increasing backlog of special education complaints received by the state. There were more than 10,000 due process complaints in the state during the 2018-2019 school year, with the overwhelming majority coming from New York City.

SED is attempting to expand the pool of potential hearing officers by removing the requirement that all attorneys be licensed in New York State, halving the minimum experience to one year and allowing administrative law to be one of the practices that qualify interested lawyers to becoming hearing officers.

NYSSBA's Governmental Relations team will continue to report on these and other issues.  For more information, visit our Key Issues Page

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