Archive for May, 2010

Council president thanks school budget voters, asks for action on state budget

May 25th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Council President Oliver Robinson today sent the following letter to editors of major daily newspapers around the state.  Dr. Robinson is Superintendent of the Shenendehowa Central School District in southern Saratoga county. Read the rest of this entry »

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School budgets: A new record for yes votes?

May 21st, 2010 by Robert Lowry

As we reported previously, over 92 percent of school budgets won approval by voters on Tuesday.  The results may have also produced a new record for “yes” votes. Read the rest of this entry »

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92.44%

May 19th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

The State Education Department reports that 92.44 percent of school district budgets were approved by voters yesterday.

SED’s tabulation of results is available here.

Our statement is posted here and copied below.

We will have more on the results tomorrow.

________________________________________________

Read the rest of this entry »

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TUESDAY!

May 18th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

All across New York State today, school districts are asking voters for approval of proposed operating budgets for the coming school year.

Governor Paterson predicts that people will be surprised at how many school budgets will be rejected by voters today.

He also seemed to suggest that schools are trying to “spend money you don’t have” and avoiding tough choices.

So much for the more constructive approach he seemed to be taking toward schools with his advance warning of a possible state aid delay June, this one to be implemented by amending state law, rather than ignoring it, as he did with prior delays.  There will be no action by the Legislature on that proposal this week.

Erie 1 BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie and I explained to the Buffalo News the choices and pressures school leaders have wrestled with in putting together proposed budgets.

The Governor’s comments came in response to a question on what might ignite a resolution of the state budget.  We offered similar speculation in the latest Councilgram, but did not predict school budget outcomes.

What will happen when votes are counted this evening?  Historically, who doesn’t vote has often mattered more than who does.

Here is a chart comparing budget passage rates, and total votes statewide for and against school budgets going back to 2003.  That was the first year the State Education Department began compiling yes and no vote counts by district.

In 2003, 94 percent of budgets passed (a record up to that point), with 589,000 New Yorkers voting “yes,” and 370,000 voting “no.”

In 2004, the passage rate dipped by almost 9 percentage points.  No votes remained roughly stable, but yes votes dropped by 95,000.

An exception to the rule of who doesn’t vote mattering more than who does occurred in 2005.  That year yes votes rebounded, increasing by 56,000 over 2005.  But no votes surged by 62,000 (16 percent) and the passage rate dipped by another two points, to 83 percent.

Last year schools achieved a record approval rate of 97.3 percent.  There was a slight climb in yes votes (3 percent), but the main factor in the ascending approval rate was a 17 percent drop in no votes, presumably resulting in large part from districts proposing the lowest average tax increase in seven years.

What might happen today?  It is easy to predict a lower yes turnout, partly because with widespread cuts and layoffs, traditional school supporters may see less reason to vote for school budgets this year.

More no votes are easy to predict as well — economic worries persist, school budget votes provide an outlet for “tea party” activists, and some people will vote against budgets to protest proposed cuts.

Accompanying the statewide chart are tables with corresponding data by region.  The drop-off in turnout, yes and no, in some upstate regions is stunning.

Over the weekend, the Auburn Citizen published a carefully done explanation of some of the complexities of the contingency budget cap — something we hope not many districts will have to contemplate, Governor Paterson’s prediction notwithstanding.

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Another aid delay? Bad news/good news

May 16th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Each Friday since the state missed adopting a budget in time for the April 1 start of its fiscal year, Governor Paterson has been sending the Legislature emergency spending bills to keep state government operating for another week.

This past Friday, the Governor included a proposal to authorize the state to delay School Aid payments due at the beginning of June until the end of that month.

Of course this is not welcome news.

But what is welcome is the change in the administration’s approach.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Perspectives on teacher evaluation reform

May 14th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

More on the teacher evaluation reform proposal announced by State Education Commissioner David Steiner earlier this week…

Commissioner Steiner gave his explanation of the initiative in a New York Post column on Wednesday.

Gothamschools.org reported on New York City teacher union president Michael Mulgrew’s presentation of the plan to his board, suggesting he had to dispel some skepticism among his members.

Mr. Mulgrew’s union has posted this Q&A piece on the proposal.

Here is a copy of the bill itself.

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SED, union agree on reforms to teacher evaluation — UPDATED

May 11th, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Later this morning, State Education Commissioner David Steiner and leaders of New York State United Teachers will announce agreement on a package of changes to how teachers are evaluated in the state.

UPDATE (12:10 am, May 11):  Here is the State Education Department’s new release on the agreement.  Here is NYSUT’s release.

The changes are intended to enhance New York’s prospects for winning up to $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds.  At least some will require changes in state law, to be approved by the Assembly, Senate, and Governor in advance of the June 1 federal application deadline for Race to the Top.

The New York Times gives this summary of the proposed changes:

Teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale, with 20 percent points based on how much students improve on the standardized state exams. Another 20 percent would be based on local tests, which would have to be developed by each school system. After two years, 25 percent would be based on the state exams and 15 percent would come from the local tests.

The remainder of the evaluation will come from observations from principals and other teachers, and other measures. If teachers are rated ineffective for two consecutive years, they would face firing through an expedited hearing process that must conclude within 60 days. Currently hearings can drag on for several months.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Commissioner Steiner,

“We’ve never had anything like this before,” Mr. Steiner said. “It’s been nearly impossible to remove teachers for academic effectiveness reasons.” Struggling teachers would be given support, while “excellent” teachers would be rewarded.

We expect to have more on this later today.

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Property tax report cards: Districts holding down spending increases to manage state aid cuts

May 3rd, 2010 by Robert Lowry

Some observations on the property tax report card data for the proposed school budgets to be considered by voters on May 18…

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Senate moving on charter school cap? UPDATED

May 3rd, 2010 by Robert Lowry

The State Senate’s Democratic leadership has introduced a bill to increase New York’s cap on charter schools from 200 to 460.

The bill includes changes to increase the transparency of charter school governance. It also includes provisions intended to require greater efforts by charter schools to increase enrollment of students with disabilities and English language learners, if current enrollment shares for those groups are less than half the shares for the surrounding school district.

It does nothing to address the fiscal impact of charters on school districts, a primary concern for public school officials beyond New York City. Read the rest of this entry »

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