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January 4, 2012
In annual address, Cuomo appoints himself students' lobbyist
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivering the State of the State address in Albany today Students have a new representative in Albany: Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Right now, Cuomo is delivering his second State of the State address, titled "Building a New New York ... with you." Education issues account for one and a half of the speech's 33 pages of prepared remarks. As expected, the governor is calling for an education commission to propose reforms to the state's education system. That commission will look for ways to boost "teacher accountability and student achievement" and "management efficiency" — both topics Cuomo targeted during his first address a year ago — and will work with the legislature. He's also appointing himself chief lobbyist for students, calling them the only group in schools that don't employ lobbyists of their own. "This year, I will take a second job — consider me the lobbyist for the students," he says in the prepared remarks, which he has been known to depart from. "I will wage a campaign to put students first, and to remind us that the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy." Some educators are already taking umbrage at the idea that students' interests aren't being represented.
January 3, 2012
Advocates try to preempt Cuomo with State of Schools address
Advocates are trying to preempt Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address with a seven-minute "State of the Schools" speech of their own. The Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group that Cuomo's office has disparaged in the past, released their address by YouTube video today.
December 6, 2011
Tax code changes could mitigate against school budget cuts
It's not the millionaire's tax that some parents have pushed for, but it's something. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that he would overhaul the state's tax code to reduce the tax rate on middle-income earners and increase taxes on the highest earners. Cuomo estimates that the changes will add $2 billion a year to the state's coffers — funds that can go to schools and other public services. UFT President Michael Mulgrew was among the chorus of people who quickly signaled their support for the proposal. He called the plan "a wide-ranging solution to the state's budget problems" and said it would "help ensure that children in our public schools will begin to see restorations from the devastating education cuts of recent years.” But a separate tax on high earners known as the millionaire's tax, which Cuomo has vowed not to renew when it expires at the end of the month, has generated significantly more, about $4 billion a year. That means the state is still facing a funding shortfall of as much as $1.5 billion, and schools are likely to feel continued budget pressure.
November 14, 2011
Already grim state budget grows grimmer with new projections
Annual state spending on school aid will be down 6.1 percent this year, according to new spending projections from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget office.
November 14, 2011
State has named independent investigator to look into cheating
The person who could reshape how the state handles cheating allegations in public schools has been named. In September, the Board of Regents authorized…
November 8, 2011
On Election Day, Cuomo protesters voted with their voices
The Occupy Wall Street movement spawned another education protest spin-off today, this time led by parents and held at the steps of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office in midtown Manhattan. The new coalition of parents, many of them from Brownstone Brooklyn and accompanied by young children, assembled to voice opposition to the governor's plan not to extend a tax on the state's wealthiest residents. "Occupy the DOE," another education protest staged last night at Tweed, featured mostly teachers and veteran education activists. Today's event, dubbed “Occupy for Education," was not affiliated with any previous Occupy protest, organizers said, but they borrowed heavily from them, including a human mic and many of the same chants: "We are the 99 percent" and "This is what democracy looks like." The protest also featured symbolic ballot boxes for people to vote in support of the so-called "millionaires' tax," an income surcharge for individuals who make over $200,000 or families who make over $300,000. Cuomo has repeatedly said he wants the tax to expire at the end of the year, despite voter polls showing widespread support for a newer version that would only tax millionaires. His argument is that the tax threatens to chase away the state’s wealthiest residents, which would, in effect, result in less job creation and less tax revenue, not more. But parents today said that revenue from the tax, estimated to be $2.8 billion next year, could help restore funding to schools after years of budget cuts that have caused class sizes to rise. "The short term job creation or protection that he claims will be the result of repealing the tax on millionaires does not justify jeopardizing or not supporting education," said Liz Rosenberg, a Park Slope parent who helped organize the event.
June 20, 2011
City schools chiefs suggest Jan. Regents exam compromise
Last week, Mayor Bloomberg said he wasn't happy about a state decision to eliminate January Regents exams. But he said city officials hadn't decided whether to push back officially against it. Now it appears they have. On Friday, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined his counterparts in four other big-city school districts in formally petitioning the state to reinstate the January exam date. They argue that the change will affect urban students disproportionately because those students are more likely to take nontraditional pathways to graduation. (Dozens of principals from suburban Long Island have also joined the chorus of city principals asking for the decision to be reversed.) In separate letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner of Education John King, the five superintendents — from Syracuse, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, and New York City — suggest a compromise. "At a minimum," they say (twice), the state should consider adding back the five Regents exams typically taken to meet graduation requirements. The letters argue that simply reducing the number of exams offered in January would cut costs but would still allow students to graduate. The elimination of the test date was part of a slate of changes that the Board of Regents said would close an $8 million budget gap in the state's testing program. The letters came from the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, which last weighed in on policy issues in May when it suggested changes to the appeals process for teacher evaluations that were not accepted. The website for the conference listed on the letters sent last week is not active.
May 13, 2011
Cuomo: Test scores should play a bigger part in teacher evals
If Governor Andrew Cuomo angered Mayor Bloomberg by batting off his calls to end seniority-based layoffs, perhaps the governor redeemed himself in the mayor's eyes today. Cuomo sent the chancellor of New York's Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, a letter saying he believes that student test scores should count for a larger portion of teachers' annual evaluations. His comments are a critique of a set of regulations put out by the Board of Regents that they will vote on next week. The regulations are to be used by New York City and other districts as a guide to implementing the state's new teacher evaluation system. In a statement today, Tisch vowed to support Cuomo's recommendations at the meeting next week, saying that they "will lead to an even stronger teacher and principal evaluation system for New York." It's not clear if the other members of the board will agree with Tisch. A recent appointee to the board, the former city school official Kathleen Cashin, is a quiet critic of Bloomberg's. Another hurdle involves getting the teacher evaluations implemented in school districts. The new state law revising the evaluation system granted final power to local collective bargaining talks between districts and unions. That means that no evaluation system will become final without local unions' approval. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded to Cuomo's letter obliquely, saying only: "We look forward to discussing the Governor's recommendations with the Regents." Bloomberg's reaction was more effusive: “The thoughtful recommendations made today by Governor Cuomo will greatly improve the rigor of these new evaluations, and I am heartened that the Regents agreed to adopt them. But it will take the sustained commitment of all invested parties – and perhaps most importantly, the cooperation of the teachers union – if we are to make this evaluation system a reality.” Here's Cuomo's complete letter:
April 12, 2011
New school construction estimates rise slightly after dropping
Under Albany's new budget agreement, New York City's school capital plan will regain roughly 12,000 seats — a boon to school officials who expected harsher cuts, but a number that does not meet earlier demand estimates. In November of last year, city officials estimated that they would need to increase earlier seat construction projections in the face of overcrowding in schools. At the time, they planned for 50,074 new seats to be built by 2014, many of them in elementary and middle schools where demand had ballooned. Then came a proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo to cap state spending on school construction aid. The plan would have significantly reduced the state's contribution. To absorb the cut, city officials said they wouldn't be able to build thousands of the seats they had planned on — a decision that would have affected schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Riverdale, Bronx, the most. But now that Cuomo's proposal has not been included in the budget agreement, the numbers have changed again. With $1.7 billion more to spend on school construction, the city can now afford to build about 26,500 seats, instead of the roughly 14,000 it had planned on. City officials said that more information about which neighborhoods would benefit from the seat construction increase, and which would not feel any effect, would be released tomorrow.
March 14, 2011
New layoff bill combines Cuomo and Bloomberg's agendas
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo agree that the state should abandon the “last-in, first-out” layoff system — they have just differed about the appropriate time. Over the weekend, state Republicans who support Bloomberg's plan proposed a compromise: use their criteria for layoffs now and the governor's for layoffs starting next year. The new language was included in a budget proposal that Republicans introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly on Saturday. It incorporates Cuomo's proposal to speed up implementation of the state's new teacher evaluation system and proposes to use that system to determine layoffs beginning next year. But if layoffs happen this year, then they would proceed according to criteria that are very similar to those in the original Senate bill, which was introduced by State Senator John Flanagan. The bill addresses two perceived shortcomings of both Cuomo's plan and the original bill that the State Senate passed two weeks ago. City officials attacked Cuomo's proposed bill — which relies on new evaluations that would have to be negotiated in part by local districts in their unions — arguing that stalled negotiations could delay implementation of a new layoff system for months if not years. The new proposal calls for an arbitrator to rule if the district and union have not agreed on a plan 90 days before the start of the school year.
March 2, 2011
Dispute over layoff bills boils down to a question: now or later?
The argument that heated up today between city officials, Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of the state legislature over abolishing the state's seniority-based layoff system for teachers essentially boils down to one thing: timing. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Education officials want to do away with the "last-in, first-out" system immediately so that they can use new criteria to lay off teachers at the end of this school year. Cuomo and other state officials — several of whom support changing the layoff system generally — counter that abandoning seniority-based layoffs must wait until the state has a better system it can use instead. Yesterday, Cuomo introduced a bill that would speed implementation of the teacher evaluation bill that Albany passed last May up by a year but did not propose any changes to the layoff system. City officials immediately blasted the bill as "a sham" and a distraction, and Bloomberg said today the governor's proposal "simply kicks the can down the road." Part of the disagreement lies in whether or not the city and the state have time to kick that can. City officials speak of the need to change the layoff system with a sense of urgency, arguing that a budget crisis necessitates laying off more than 4,000 teachers this year.
March 1, 2011
NY State Senate passes bill to end seniority teacher layoffs
A bill that would end the "last in, first out" layoff policy for New York City teachers passed in the State Senate today, but faces an uphill battle in the Assembly. Introduced late last week by State Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, the bill rules out seniority as the sole factor in determining who gets laid off. Instead, the bill offers eight pages of an extraordinarily complicated, prioritized list of which teachers and school supervisors would be first in line to be laid off. The bill passed the Senate 33-27, with support from Republicans and two Democratic Senators — Jeff Klein and David Valesky. Following the vote, Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a statement saying he plans to introduce a bill that would "expedite and expand ongoing plans to implement a statewide, objective teacher evaluation system." Rather than replacing "last in, first out" with other measures, which Flanagan's bill does, Cuomo's bill would put New York's new teacher evaluation system in place sooner than was previously planned. The original law had it covering math and English teachers who teach grades 4-8 next year and expanding to all teachers and all subjects by 2012-13. Under Cuomo's bill, the evaluation would cover all teachers beginning next year.
February 1, 2011
Cuomo suggests cutting city school funds to near-2007 levels
Governor Andrew Cuomo is suggesting that the state cut its contribution to New York City public schools by nearly $600 million from the level that schools received this year. The budget, released today, proposes reducing statewide school spending by $1.5 billion from this year's level. Activists said that would be the largest dollar figure cut to public schools in New York's history. The proposal would bring the state's contribution to city schools close to the level received in 2007. That year ushered in substantial funding increases after a court ordered New York State to reduce historic funding inequities by pouring billions of extra dollars into the New York City schools. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget for fiscal year 2011, denoted with the asterisk, would reduce the state's spending on New York City public schools to $7.5 billion.
January 5, 2011
Cuomo proposes two new Race to the Top-style grants for NY
Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed two new competitive education grants during his State of the State address today. Two more Races to the Top could be coming to New York — this time courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo. In his first State of the State speech today, Cuomo proposed creating two new competitive grant funds for state school districts, worth $250 million each. The first grant would reward districts that boost students' academic performance. The second would go to districts that find ways to cut costs that don't affect the classroom. It's not yet clear if the addition of the grant competitions would alter the state's current formula-based education model. But the governor was critical of the model, which he said gives districts no incentives to improve. "Competition works," Cuomo said, pointing to the state legislature's passage of a charter cap lift bill as part of its (eventually successful) bid to win Race to the Top funds. Cuomo's plan would follow the lead of the federal government, which the governor said has "actually been more innovative in this area." The U.S. Department of Education still doles out most of its money to states according to formulas, but under President Barack Obama has also begun granting billions of dollars based on the outcomes of competitions.
October 1, 2010
The education governor's race: A Paladino and Cuomo primer
You may have noticed that we have a governor's race going on in New York. But amid the love children, viral cell-phone videos, and upsetting e-mail forwards, policy issues are getting even more overshadowed than usual — including where the two candidates stand on education. To remedy this, I've compiled a brief primer outlining the education stances of the Democrat, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and the Republican, Tea Party-ite Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general, sides with Obama and Bloomberg on education. (Photo via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/saeba/4015439957/sizes/m/in/photostream/##Flickr## user ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/saeba/##saebaryo##) Andrew Cuomo HIS CAMP: Cuomo is framing himself as the great hope that Democrats for Education Reform activists once dreamed David Paterson would be — a "Barack Obama Democrat" on education, as one source put it to me. (Or, you might say, an "ideolocrat.") Cuomo kept himself out of the Race to the Top legislative battle (at least publicly). But his published platform mirrors DFER's insistence on raising the cap on charter schools, and it quotes charter supporters' warning that a union-backed push for more public consultation before opening a charter school would have amounted to a "poison pill." WHAT HE MIGHT DO: Cuomo's decision to affiliate with DFER, Mayor Bloomberg, and the entrepreneurial camp on schools gives him a potentially long education wish list. That's because almost all of the changes favored by these reformers are legislative; teacher tenure, "last in, first out" firing patterns, teacher pensions, and charter school growth are all matters of state law. While other state Democrats (namely Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) have allied themselves with the teachers union, Cuomo could act as a counter-force pushing for more changes to the state's education law. It's worth noting that nearly all of the education agenda Bloomberg laid out this week on NBC would require changes to state law.
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