Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Fix the Tax Cap

March 10th, 2019 by Robert Lowry

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been saying that he will not approve a 2019-20 budget for the state unless the property tax cap is made permanent. He reiterated that message this past week in columns in Long Island’s Newsday, the Lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and the Buffalo News.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents takes the position that the tax cap needs to be amended, if it is to be made permanent. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Council’s analysis of Governor Cuomo’s public school funding proposals

March 3rd, 2019 by Robert Lowry

Earlier this week we released our annual analysis of the public school funding proposals in Governor Cuomo’s 2019-20 proposed state budget.

Here are some of the key observations:

The Budget recommends a $338 million increase in Foundation Aid; at that rate more than 10 years would be required to fully phase-in the permanent law Foundation Aid formula. Enactment of the current proposal would leave the state $3.78 billion behind in phasing-in that formula.

The distribution of the proposed Foundation Aid increase is generally progressive, giving larger percentage aid increases to lower wealth, higher poverty districts. But a fifth of the state’s school districts would remain more than 25 percent below their full phase-in amounts; these districts are predominantly average wealth or below and their increases would average less than 1 percent.

Based on past trends, the proposal to consolidate 11 aid categories, including Transportation and BOCES Aids, into a new “Services Aid” formula will almost certainly result in most districts receiving less help from the state when the formula would go into effect (in 2020-21). The proposed growth factor in the formula is unlikely to keep pace with exceptional costs districts cannot control, such as the need to pay higher fuel costs or to transport more children to charter schools or out-of-district special education programs. The impact on BOCES shared services could be especially damaging for poor districts which rely upon them to provide students with opportunities they could not offer alone.

The Budget proposes to enable the state to require districts to reallocate funds to schools deemed “under-funded” and “high-need” relative to other schools within the district. But not every funding disparity is an inequity – insignificant differences in teacher experience could produce large spending differences among schools, for example. The proposal would supersede judgments by local educators and elected school boards with a clumsy state formula likely to require pointless reallocations, aggravate some parents, and satisfy no one.

The school property tax cap should not be made permanent without change, including allowing districts to exclude the local share of BOCES capital costs from the cap, as they can exclude the local share of district capital costs, and to realize revenue outside the cap from tax base growth generating payments in lieu of taxes, as they can now do with growth generating property tax revenue. These are commonsense adjustments, not major changes. They would provide similar treatment for similar considerations – two forms of capital expenditures and two forms of tax base growth.

The report was distributed to state legislators earlier in the week.

Past editions of the Council’s annual budget analysis can be found here.

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Regents Report — December 2017

December 17th, 2017 by Robert Lowry

The Council started something new last week — using Periscope to broadcast an update on issues in the news. Council Executive Director Charles Dedrick, Assistant Director Greg Berck and I discussed actions taken at the December meeting of the Board of Regents this past Monday and Tuesday.

You can watch the 10-minute video here. We plan on doing these videos on a regular basis going forward.

Below is a further report on some of the actions taken or discussed by the Regents last week, co-written by Greg and me. The full agenda and supporting materials can be found on the Regents website. To view agenda items, click on the committee name (e.g., P-12 Education). Read the rest of this entry »

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Testing. Now What?

June 21st, 2017 by Robert Lowry

Reporters have asked me, “Do superintendents want students to take the state’s tests?” – specifically, the grades three through eight assessments in English language arts and mathematics.

My standard answer begins, “Superintendents want state tests that educators and families will see as having value for their students’ learning. If that happens, families will choose to have their children take the tests.”

Last week, the Board of Regents approved shortening the grades three through eight assessments from three days each to two. It’s a change the Council, individual superintendents, and many others in education have sought for years.

The Regents and State Education Department have now made a series of operational changes to the assessments which were widely requested:  shortening the time required for the tests, first the daily sessions and now the number of days; disclosing substantially more test questions; returning results to schools earlier.

All these actions are helpful in addressing concerns educators and parents have raised about the conduct of the tests.

Greater and more complicated questions of how to assure the tests have value mostly remain to be resolved. They begin with, what purposes do we aspire to have the tests serve, and can we construct tests that will soundly serve each of those purposes?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Drawing Battle Lines Over Privatization

June 5th, 2015 by Robert Lowry

Why a fight over tax credits for private schools is about far more than tax credits for private schools

By Terrance N. Pratt, Assistant Director for Government Relations

This time of year we sometimes find ourselves battling another political interest, and the fight is usually straightforward: management vs. labor, business sector vs. public sector.  But this year we find ourselves battling a rather small tax credit, something that advocates make sound very appealing, and that has now become the number one education priority of the Governor.  Likewise, it has become a top priority of a host of interests for and against, including The Council.

The question is: Why? Read the rest of this entry »

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Pivotal day in state education policy debates

February 10th, 2014 by Robert Lowry

Today is a big day for state education policy.  As the Buffalo News explained in a Saturday article,

Educators and lawmakers will be closely watching the Board of Regents when it meets Monday to see if the state’s top education officials will bend to pressure from lawmakers and educators who have complained about the way the state has rolled out the new learning standards. The Regents are expected to put forth a plan in response to a litany of complaints raised by teachers and parents at a series of public forums late last year.

I’m quoted as observing,

I imagine the legislators would hope that the Regents would put forth some ideas that would take down the temperature, satisfy parents and people working in the schools.  I think the stakes are high for the Education Department in that sense. Read the rest of this entry »

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Home Room — January 6, 2014

January 6th, 2014 by Robert Lowry

Could today be the day Governor Andrew Cuomo receives the final recommendations of his Education Reform Commission?

Read the rest of this entry »

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How superintendents describe experiences with new teacher evaluation requirements (so far)

June 9th, 2013 by Robert Lowry

Last week, the chair of one of the Council’s committees suggested we ask our members to share what they see as the positives and negatives from their districts’ experiences in implementing the state’s new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) requirements for teacher and principal evaluations.

Positive comments most often observed that the new requirements prompted conversations between teachers and administrators on how instruction should be evaluated and improved.

Negative responses focused on the time demands in complying with the requirements and their impact on other leadership priorities.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Some observations on school district property tax report cards…

May 20th, 2013 by Robert Lowry

In tomorrow’s school district budget votes, only 27 districts are proposing tax increases above their levy limit – the threshold requiring 60 percent of voters to approve.  This is down from 51 a year ago.

Under proposed school district budgets, spending would rise by an average of 3.1 percent, up from 1.7 percent a year ago. [i]

Proposed tax levy increases also averaged 3.1 percent, compared to 2.2 percent a year ago.

Higher need districts under the State Education Department’s “Need/Resource” categorizations do report higher spending increases, on average than other districts, but generally there do not appear to be distinct patterns in proposed spending and tax increases.

Statewide, districts plan to reduce combined reserves by a total of $370 million.  Poorer, higher need districts are generally drawing down unrestricted reserves at a faster rate than their counterparts and relying more on fund balances to support their budgets.

More detailed observations about the property tax report cards follow. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reaction to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address

January 9th, 2013 by Robert Lowry

Here is the Council’s statement in reaction to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address today:

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Legislation, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »