Thursday, January 22, 2015

Governor’s State of the State Address/Budget Proposal

On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo gave his State of the State Address in combination with his Budget Proposal. It is important to note that while the Governor offered broad budget statements, he will not release details of school aid proposals until the legislature acts on a broad range of proposed education reforms. We are extremely concerned about this and are working on a detailed response that we plan to release in the next several days. 

Here is a summary of some key points associated with the Governor’s education reform proposals:

·         Teacher Evaluation System (APPR)
o   The Governor believes the current system cannot be correct if 39.1% of high school students are college ready, but 98.7% of high school teachers are rated effective or better. He recommends that 50% of APPR be based on State tests, 15% based on observation by a local principal or administrator and 35% be based on observation by an outside observer appointed by the State Education Department.
o   NYS PTA reflected in our recent letter to the governor’s office that less emphasis should be placed on tests with more on observations. We have concerns with the heavy emphasis on testing and the way the Governor proposes to structure observations.

·         Teacher Tenure
o   The Governor proposes that tenure be granted after 5 continuous years of effective ratings. He states that non-tenured teachers should be subject to dismissal at any time for any reason.
o   NYS PTA has questioned whether five years is needed to assess effectiveness.

·         Removal of Ineffective Teachers
o   The Governor would make it easier to remove a teacher after two ineffective ratings, unless the rating is shown to be fraudulent.
o   NYS PTA reflected in our recent letter to the governor’s office to put an emphasis on quality of information presented at hearings and the time necessary to select hearing officers in the process.

·         Charter Schools
o   The Governor would like to see the current cap raised from 460 to 560 which would be across the state, not with an update/downstate split in the cap. There would be an emphasis on “anti-creaming” to make sure that the same cross section of students accepted into the public school system would also be allowed into the charter school system.
o   NYS PTA has been supportive of the charter school concept with the proviso that charter school funding not detract from the State’s obligation to fund public schools and that charters be accountable to local school boards. Funding as proposed would divert support from funding traditional public schools.

·         Struggling/Failing Schools
o   The Governor shared that 178 schools are currently failing in NYS and 77 have been failing for a decade. He proposes using a recommendation from SED to use the Massachusetts model in our state. If a school fails for 3 years, a non-for-profit can takeover, usually in a community school format.
o   NYS PTA has promoted standards for meaningful two-way family and community engagement in the education process in the form of recommendations to the Board of Regents, legislators, community organizations and other child advocates. The family and community engagement process using SED’s Diagnostic Tool for School and District Effectiveness (DTSDE) shows promise and should be considered as a basis for building a final action prior to considering a school closing. Closing schools is a drastic step. 

·         Mayoral Control              
o   The Governor sees the NYC model as working and could see it used in other cities.
o   NYS PTA pointed out in our response to the governor - How does mayoral control differ from the fiscal dependence of our five largest school districts on their city governments? Aren’t these schools already subject to substantial mayoral control?

·        Funding and Budget Issue Connect to Education Reforms
   When announcing the amount of money to be budgeted for education, it was proposed as two options.
o   Option 1 – The legislature adopts all of the proposed reforms – 4.8% increase of $1.06B
o   Option 2 – The legislature does not adopt all of the proposed reforms - 1.7% increase of $377M

NYS PTA is concerned that a budget without detail puts school districts and children in a very tenuous planning position that will detract from learning rather than enhance it.

Please keep in mind that the Educational Conference Board (ECB) recommended $1.9B and NYSED recommended $2.0B. Even if the reforms were adopted, it still is not close to what is needed to ensure an equitable education for all children.

·        Investment Tax Credit/Dream Act 
o   The Governor is proposing a tax credit at an annual cost of $100 million, that we do not support. Further, the Governor would link support of a “dream act” which we do support to the adoption of tax credits. We will be sharing more information about this in a separate publication.

·        Age of Criminality
o   One positive item to come out of the address was his support of Raising the Age of Criminality to 18 from the current age of 16, which is in sync with current positions taken by National PTA, and which NYS PTA is working on educating and advocating for.

Overall, I wish we could say this was a surprise. The fact that the budget recommendation is tied to the governor’s education reform proposals is extremely disappointing. We definitely have our work cut out for us in the coming year.  


NYS PTA® President
Communicate to Advocate

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Topics of Interest

As a follow-up to my last post to The Voice of NYS PTA, below are some topics of interest that include a link to our letter to the Governor's office addressing many different issues that we believe will be included later this week in the Governor's State of the State address. 

Topics of Interest:
  • NYS PTA Letter to the Governor’s Office: This week we finalized our letter to the governor’s office addressing issues raised in the letter they sent in mid-December to the Board of Regents and State Education Department.
    • Click here to read the letter from the Governor's office we are responding to.
    • To read the response letter from NYS PTA that addresses all of the items from that letter, click here.
    • If you are interested in reading the response letter from NYSED/Board of Regents, please click here.
  • The Education Conference Board (ECB) Makes Commissioner Recommendations: ECB sent out a letter this week to Vice Chancellor Bottar with our combined recommendation for selection of the next Commissioner. Please click here to read that letter. We are also in the final stages of preparing a letter from NYS PTA with our recommendations, and we will share that with you in an upcoming posting.
  • Mark your calendars for the Governor Cuomo’s State of the State is scheduled for this Wednesday, January 21 at 1:30 p.m. As it will be later this year, the Budget announcement will be combined with this presentation.
  • Letter Supporting National Core Arts Standards: A representative of NYSED requested a letter of support from NYS PTA regarding the potential adoption or adoption with amendments of the National Core Arts Standards. Unlike the Common Core Standards, these voluntary standards were drafted with input from all the major Arts discipline organizations like the National Association of Music Educators, which included teachers and administrators. Theses core arts standards attempt to structure process and content knowledge to assist educators in developing not only performance skills, but lifelong appreciation and participation in the Arts. The standards and the grade-by-grade matrix can be found at: nationalartsstandards.orgYou can read our letter by clicking here.
Should be an interesting week ahead...

Bonnie M. Russell

NYS PTA® President
Communicate to Advocate

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A New Year Full of Challenges and Promise

As 2015 begins, we look forward to a year of challenges in education from many different fronts, along with a promise that we will work in collaboration with our stakeholders to stand up for the children of New York. A few weeks ago, the Cuomo Administration sent a letter to the Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education ( with a series of questions that exposed their intention to use the state budget to put forward education reforms.

On December 23, I was honored to be interviewed by Susan Arbetter of Capitol Pressroom where I was given the opportunity to respond to questions from that letter. The broadcast was a combination of interviews with reactions from many stakeholders: including Senator John Flanagan (R – Smithtown), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Education; Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium; Bob Lowry, Deputy Director at NYS Council of School Superintendents and Billy Easton the Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education of New York.

To hear the interview just click on this link:, and my portion is about 10 minutes into the broadcast. This links to the interview with all of the stakeholders listed above, and if you have time, I do recommend that you listen to all of the opinions.

This interview is just a brief snapshot of our opinions and concerns with issues brought about in the letter. We are working on a letter to the governors' office from NYS PTA that will go into more detail. As soon as it is finalized, we will share that here in this blog.

Looking forward to an interesting year...

Bonnie M. Russell
NYS PTA® President
Communicate to Advocate