Home Room, October 3, 2011

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 10:03 am by

In this post:

  • Cuomo on Triborough
  • Silver on taxes
  • SED on paperwork
  • Fellows on loan
  • Buffalo News on cyber-bullying

Cuomo on Triborough
During a radio interview on Friday, Governor Cuomo appeared to rule out seeking changes to New York State’s “Triborough Law” which guarantees that the provisions of an expired public employee collective bargaining agreement remain in effect, until a successor agreement is in place.

Whenever we ask superintendents what actions the state could take to help their districts reduce or control costs, relief from Triborough is always at or near the top of the list.

Specifically, they cite Triborough’s guarantee of “step increases,” as reducing management leverage in negotiations, arguing that it gives unions little reason to agree to a new contract with cost saving measures, since most members will continue to receive raises and maintain other benefits under their old contract.

This dynamic was cited as a contributing factor to the rejection of a proposed contract by the members of the second largest state employees union, the Public Employees Federation.

As a result of the rejection, the Administration is proceeding with plans to lay off 3,496 PEF members, including 19 State Education Department employees.

Discussing the PEF rejection on the Capitol Pressroom radio show, the Governor acknowledged, “you could see that that’s a pragmatic judgment,” for some union members to conclude they could oppose the contract since they would not be laid off because of their seniority, and would receive raises because of Triborough.

Host Susan Arbetter asked, “Do you think it’s time to revisit Triborough?”

The Governor responded, “I think it’s a political non-starter to try to revisit Triborough.  Period, you know, and we live in the real here.”

In my experience, getting “big” legislation enacted, like amending Triborough, requires two ingredients:   noise from the outside (from advocates and voters) and a champion on the inside — at least one leader who won’t allow budget negotiations to close or the legislative session to end unless the issue gets addressed.

Obviously, the most potent champion for an issue would be the Governor.


Silver on taxes
Gannett News reported that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reiterated his support for retaining higher income taxes on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers while appearing on an Albany area radio show last Tuesday.

The Speaker said, “I still think we should not allow people making more than $1 million to have the benefit of a tax cut.”

Higher tax rates on New Yorkers with incomes above $250,000 were adopted in 2010 and are due to expire on December 31.

Rather than extend the entire increase, Speaker Silver has proposed limiting the extension to taxpayers with incomes over $1 million.

Meanwhile, Governor reiterated his opposition, saying, “If I raise taxes, I’m in a running race every day with Connecticut and Jersey and other states.  If I raise my taxes, they can move 20 minutes away in some directions and I’m hemorrhaging from the borders. That’s not true federally.”

The two leaders’ characterizations of the issue are revealing.  The Governor refers to extending the rates as a tax increase, while the Speaker calls ending them a tax cut.

Had the higher rates not been scheduled to expire, it’s hard to imagine state leaders would have chosen to cut them while also grappling with closing the projected $10 billion gap they faced in assembling this year’s state budget.


SED on paperwork
The State Education Department has launched a consolidated web-based reporting system, giving school officials one place to go to for information on all the plans, reports and applications they are required to submit each year.

This is a very welcome step by SED.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Council issued a report, “Drowning in a Sea of Paperwork,” describing the time school district leaders had to spend completing plans and reports of questionable usefulness.

Legislation was passed requiring the SED to complete a report on reports.  The Department was conscientious and identified roughly 100 more plans, reports, and applications required of districts than we did.

There have been administrative and legislative attempts at reducing the paperwork burden.

Until very recently, however, we continued to receive requests for our 2002 report – because it very clearly laid out specific reporting deadlines school officials were expected to meet.  We referred people to newer SED resources, but the new web-based portal is a big step forward.


Fellows on loan
The State Education Department has faced some questioning for its use of privately funded “Regents Fellows” to assist on activities undertaken as part of its $696 million federal Race to the Top grant.

But The Capitol reports that the U.S. Education Department recently called on the Fellows and State Education Commissioner John King for advice in developing the Obama Administration’s plans for waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements.

SED officials would neither confirm nor deny that the Fellows were involved in designing the waiver plan.  But The Capitol quoted an unnamed source, ““We’ve been loaning them manpower. It’s embarrassing.”

The Capitol says New York has not decided whether to apply for a waiver.  But SED is consulting with stakeholders, including superintendents and the Council, and all signs are that the Department will develop a waiver request.


Buffalo News on Cyber-Bullying
The recent death by suicide of a Western New York teenager following “cyber-bullying” and other harassment drew national attention for a time.  Understandably, the tragedy continues to command attention from regional media.

On Saturday, for example, The Buffalo News ran an editorial titled, “More steps needed:  State must pass tougher measures to fight bullying in the digital age.”

The editorial cites proposals by Senators Stephen Saland (R-Dutchess) and Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) to strengthen penalties for cyber-bullying.

Addressing cyber-bullying presents special challenges for schools because the act often occurs off school grounds, outside the school day, and without using school resources.

Yesterday, the News ran a column by a local middle school teacher who writes, “As a teacher, I’ll be the first to admit that students have more power in schools than any of us hired to instruct usually give them credit for.”

She calls on adults to do their part by teaching students to exercise positive peer pressure,

If a culture of respect is nurtured, and students are taught to voice their displeasure when they see and hear bullying of any kind—especially if they are simply bystanders — the actions will all but disappear. To put it simply, if it is very uncool to be rude or threatening to someone, the behavior will change.

Her observation makes sense to me, chiefly based on a conversation with one of my own teenaged children.  But how to translate the idea into widespread practice, and whether a new state law might play a role, is not clear.

Meanwhile, Newsday reported on Facebook’s efforts to reduce its use in bullying.


This entry was posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 10:03 am and is filed under Finance, Leadership, Legislation, National Policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.