New York Education Budget Quagmire

02.02.12 | Ralph Kerr | Comments[0]

Two weeks ago New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 2012-2013 State Budget. The portion of the budget related to education will have significant impact on the education enterprise in the State.

            There were four major areas of impact for education, State Aid for Schools, Teachers and Principals Evaluations tied to Aid, Pension Reform and Speedier Teacher Discipline Arbitration. This week we will deal with the first two items. Next week will we discuss the last two.

1)      State Aid for schools. An overall increase of 4.1 percent or $805 million with 76 percent of the $805 million going to high-needs districts. This is a significant amount of money. The problem is the way it is to be distributed. $250 million will be doled out in competitive grants based on performance and efficiency. Smaller, and perhaps some of the most needy schools simply do not have the personnel resources to write competitive grants, even though they may have high performance and be an efficient operation. $265 million will be given in expense based aid, i.e. transportation and school construction. In most cases this aid will be used to cover existing costs and will add nothing directly to help with student performance. The last $290 million will be handed out for basic classroom funding. When this amount is divided up amongst over 700 school districts there will be little money coming to most schools. Probably the Big Five will receive over half this money based on their enrollment. A check of some schools across the Southern Tier shows little or no increase in State Aid for them.

2)      Teacher and Principals Evaluations tied to Aid. There is an ongoing battle in many of the larger districts in the State about these evaluation instruments. In fact, nearly $1 billion of Federal education aid is now being held back by the Commissioner of Education as a result of the lack of agreement between teacher unions and districts on an acceptable evaluation instrument that is tied to student standardized test scores. A law suit has been filed by the teachers unions to prevent the agreed upon evaluations from going forward. The Governor has given the unions and the State Education Department 30 days to resolve this issue or he will impose an evaluation instrument. As might be expected union representatives are not happy about this development. The President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation stated, “Taking funding away from underfunded schools is like rubbing salt in a wound.” This comment from a union leader in a district that already spends $24,500 per student annually. The Governor has also stated that any district that does not have an acceptable evaluation instrument in place by January 17, 2013 will forfeit the additional aid they have received this year and will receive no additional aid next year.

These are very tough measures but I applaud Governor Cuomo for taken these drastic actions to force unions to stop impeding the success of children by caring more about their members and the benefits they receive and the protection they have, than about the children.



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