Friday Wrap-Up — May 4, 2012

Friday, May 4th, 2012 at 3:20 pm by

Some of the news we have highlighted on Twitter and our homepage over the past week or so, covering mandates, State Education Department news, the Governor’s Education Reform Commission, and the NYSUT Representative Assembly.

A frequently requested item:  The State Education Department’s compilation of state special education laws, regulations and policies not required by federal law.

Writing in Newsday, E.J. McMahon of the conservative Manhattan Institute suggested that Governor Cuomo’s new education reform commission,

“would be wise to steer clear of district reorganization, rather than touch off a big political fight over relatively small potential savings. Instead, it should attack state mandates — especially in the areas of collective bargaining (for example, the Triborough Amendment) and special education — that do the most to drive up school head counts and compensation costs.”

Mr. McMahon notes that, “…when it comes to [school district] administrative overhead, New York doesn’t look far out of line from the national norm.”

On the other hand, New York State United Teachers General Counsel Richard Casagrande made the argument for the Triborough Law in a letter to the Albany Times Union.

The State Senate had a heated debate over “bullet aid” to school districts on Tuesday, when it took up a resolution to allocate a nearly $10 million lump sum appropriation included in the new state budget enacted last month. The link includes the text of the resolution, with the amounts allocated to benefiting districts.

There have been advances in transparency:  up until a few years ago, the allocations were made by unpublished memoranda of understanding.

Some Assembly bullet aid was allocated to districts through direct appropriations to individual districts as detailed in the state budget, and some remains to be allocated by a resolution like the Senate’s.

As we reported in a separate blog post, Governor Cuomo announced the members of the Education Reform Commission he called for in his State of the State address last January.  The Middletown Times Herald Record cautioned that the commission was “put together from the top down, when the problem is best viewed and analyzed from the bottom up.”

I missed doing a Friday wrap-up for last week, so here are a few items from that period:

The State Board of Regents met on April 23rd and 24th.  They received a briefing on issues with the grades 3 through 8 English language arts assessment (e.g., “pineapple-gate”).  You can watch the Regents discussion here.

The Regents also considered a proposal to create additional pathways to high school graduation for students, by allowing them to substitute an approved career and technical education assessment or second math or science exam for the current Global History and Geography Regents Exam.

The proposal drew some criticism as misguided at a time when students need greater global awareness.  It is important to note that students would still be required to take and pass the global course and that passing the exam would still be an option for meeting graduation requirements.

In its regulatory relief white paper, the Council called allowed students to substitute a CTE assessment for one of the five required Regents, excluding those in English and math.

The pathways proposal will now be circulated for field and public reaction.

The Regents also approved the outline for a legislative proposal to authorize regional high schools, an idea supported by superintendents in several rural areas as I explained to the Albany Times Union.

The state’s highest court heard oral arguments in a challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s school finance system in lawsuit brought by small city residents.

In its defense the state cites the Foundation Aid formula and other reforms enacted in 2007, although those initiatives have essentially been on hold since 2009. The Albany Times Union followed up with an editorial criticizing “legal gamesmanship” by the state.

The state’s attempts have the case dismissed have been rejected by two lower courts.  The Court of Appeals will issue the final ruling.  A win for the small cities would allow the case to go to trial a process which entail years of arguments and appeals.

Finally, New York State United Teachers held its annual Representative Assembly in Buffalo last week.  The union approved a resolution calling the state system of standardized testing “broken,” and heard from an assortment of public officials and union leaders.

As expected, Buffalo teachers walked out when State Education Commissioner John King arrived to speak.  The State Education Department has refused to approve teacher evaluation plans required as for federal School Improvement Grant funding for Buffalo.

More on the NYSUT RA is available here

This entry was posted on Friday, May 4th, 2012 at 3:20 pm and is filed under Finance, Standards & Assessments, State Budget, Teachers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.