Gov. Cuomo calls for $1.1 billion school aid
increase and education reforms, with no mention of the GEA
Under the Executive Budget Proposal outlined
by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 21, state funding for schools
would increase by $1.1 billion next year – provided that state
lawmakers go along with a series of education reforms that he
described as “ambitious” in his combined budget address and State of
the State message.
The reforms Cuomo proposed include an overhaul
of the existing teacher evaluation law, more stringent tenure
requirements, funding to expand preschool programs, lifting the cap
on charter schools, and a new turnaround process for the state’s
lowest performing schools.
An additional $1.1 billion in state aid next
year would represent a 4.8 percent increase over the current year.
The Division of Budget announced that school aid runs would not be
released to districts until the Legislature passes the Governor’s
education reform agenda.
According to language in the Governor’s
proposed budget bill, if the Legislature does not enact the
education reforms he outlined, districts will not see an increase in
state aid next year or the year after. The Governor also did not
address the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, which is the
mechanism through which the state has diverted promised school
funding over the last five years to meet other budget priorities. In
that time, schools have lost more than $9.52 billion cumulatively to
the GEA, and they are still owed $1.04 billion.
The overall proposed increase in aid falls
short of the $2 billion or more that the New York State Board of
Regents and leading education groups have called for to meet the
needs of students next year.
The Governor is also proposing to make
permanent the state’s property tax levy cap, which is set to expire
after this current year, as well as a new “circuit breaker” tax
reduction program. This would reduce property taxes for some
homeowners and renters based on income and the amount of their tax
The series of education reforms Cuomo called
for included changes to how districts evaluate teachers and
principals. Under the existing process, evaluation scores consist of
essentially three components: classroom observations, growth on
state test scores and locally-selected learning targets, and
additional measures of student achievement. Scores on these
components result in a rating of highly effective, effective,
developing or ineffective.
In his speech, the Governor outlined a plan
that would change the evaluation process so that 50 percent of
scores are based on state exams and the other 50 percent on
observations. While many other details of this plan are still
unknown, Gov. Cuomo did say that the elements of the scoring system
for teacher observations would be set in state law, rather than
locally negotiated as they are now.
Cuomo also said that teachers would have to be
rated highly effective or effective in both areas to receive an
overall rating of highly effective or effective, and that this
process would eliminate much of the local testing taking place in
school districts under the existing evaluation process.
Under Cuomo’s plan, a teacher who has two consecutive “ineffective”
ratings would be removed from their teaching position.
The budget proposal includes funding to
continue rewarding teachers with annual stipends who are deemed
highly effective and who mentor their peers. The Governor would also
create a teacher-in-residency program akin to what is provided for
doctors and offer free tuition to top SUNY/CUNY graduates who commit
to teaching in New York schools for five years.
The Governor's proposal also continues to
provide grants for the "P-Tech" Pathways in Technology and Early
College High School program, which connects high school to two years
of college in the STEM fields.
Cuomo outlined a plan to address what he
called “failing schools” that would allow a nonprofit, turnaround
expert or another district to take over a school after three years
of poor results. This entity would be charged with overhauling the
curriculum, terminating underperforming staff and recruiting
high-performing educators. These schools would be given priority in
a variety of state grant programs, and the students would be given
priority in charter school lotteries.
The Governor proposed combining the charter
school caps for New York City and the rest of the state into one
statewide cap and increasing it by 100 new charter schools, for a
total cap of 560. Under the existing caps, there are 24 slots left
for new charter schools in New York City and 159 slots available
statewide. The governor also proposed legislation to ensure that
charter schools serve “their fair share” of high-needs populations
in relation to public schools, including English language learners,
students living in poverty, and students with disabilities.
Cuomo also proposed an additional $365 million
in spending for universal prekindergarten, in line with the plan
approved last year to phase $1.5 billion in over five years to
expand prekindergarten access statewide. He also called for $25
million for new preschool programs for 3-year-olds in the state’s
highest-need school districts.
In all, the $1.1 billion school aid increase
includes just more than $1 billion in new school aid, $25 million
for the preschool initiative, and $25 million for other education
The Executive Budget Proposal now heads to the
state legislature for consideration. A final state budget is
expected by April 1, 2015.
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