Government Relations Wrap–Up and Look Ahead

A Report from Cindy Gallagher, SAANYS Director of Government Relations

The juxtaposition between the ending of summer and the anticipation of fall is a bit disorienting. It’s like walking into a large grocery store and the temperature is still 92 degrees, but you’re hit with a very strong cinnamon smell as you pass a shelf with straw brooms and ceramic pumpkins on it. The June- September government relations work is also a bit disorienting. We are still in a cycle of watching and waiting for bills passed by both houses in the spring to reach the governor (or not) and also anticipating issues that will be at the forefront as the new school year begins. The following is a brief summary of legislation at the end of the session and a look forward to fall agendas at SED.

Summary of Legislative Session

The 2018 legislative session came to a close with both houses taking a pass on major issues such as teacher/principal evaluations and speed cameras in NYC. The return of Republican legislator Thomas Croci to active duty (creating a 31-31 split in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats), the breakup of the former Independent Democratic Conference, and the impending November elections contributed to this relatively mild ending. Nonetheless, SAANYS was active during the session advocating on behalf of our members. The following summary provides an overview of the legislative bills on which SAANYS was either actively involved or tracking.

Legislation Supported by SAANYS

S. 6090-A/A. 8108-A

The bill would provide school administrators, transitioning to a new position, a reduced probationary period of three years, instead of the currently mandated four years. The proposed bill is specific to administrators who have been granted tenure in a previous school district, the current school district of employment, or a Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The shortened probationary period is not allowable for a person who has not been granted tenure previously. Currently, a shortened probationary period is allowable for teachers under similar situations. The proposed revision to the statute would provide equitable processes to school administrators. This bill passed both houses and is awaiting transmission to the governor’s office.

S. 8301/A. 10475

The proposed bill delinks the use of state assessments as part of the APPR teacher and principal evaluation process. Rather, the proposed bill would permit districts to select assessments through collective bargaining. The proposed revisions are a first step to providing school districts with greater flexibility for developing fair and balanced teacher and principal evaluations. This bill was passed by the assembly and referred to the senate, which did not take action on this bill.

S. 6551-C/A. 7966-C

This legislation would reimburse school districts for the supplemental tuition of students in charter schools in the current year, rather than the following school year. This provision would apply to school districts outside of New York City. Current practice requires that school districts make advance payments on behalf of the state and wait a full school year for reimbursement. The existing payment schedule is difficult for districts with finite and limited resources. This bill passed both houses and is awaiting transmission to the governor’s office.

Legislation SAANYS Opposed

S. 6141-D/A. 8123-B

The proposed bill would establish a streamlined form that parents/guardians would sign and submit to the school district indicating their desire to exempt their child from required immunizations. The new form would only require that parents/guardians provide their signature indicating that their genuine and serious religious beliefs are contrary to the immunization requirements under Section 2164 of Public School Health Law. Currently, parents must stipulate in writing the religious beliefs that support such an exemption request. In instances where parents/guardians request an exemption from required immunizations, the local school district is charged with the responsibility for granting or denying such requests. SAANYS opposes this bill as it would establish a process for exemption without providing the local school district with information on which to make an informed decision regarding exemption.

Legislation SAANYS is Tracking

Although school safety issues were often discussed,  comprehensive legislation was not passed. Some issues related to traffic safety were passed in both houses and are awaiting transmission to the governor’s office (S. 1064-A/A. 719-A and S. 6212-A /A. 7417-A). These bills would increase penalties for passing a school bus.

S. 3203-A/A. 2112-A

This bill would increase salaries for BOCES district superintendents. SAANYS, as part of the Educational Conference Board (ECB), supported this bill. The bill stipulates that the total salary amount paid to district superintendents for the 2018-2019 school year and thereafter, may not exceed the lesser of 6 percent over the salary cap of the preceding school year, or 98 percent of the commissioner’s salary earned in the 2018-2019 school year. This bill has passed both houses and awaits transmission to the governor’s office.

S. 7730/A. 9825

This proposed bill would allow BOCES capital projects to be excluded from component school districts’ tax cap calculations if approved by the votes of the component school districts. Many school districts rely on programs offered at BOCES and this bill may provide increased opportunities to upgrade and expand BOCES facilities.

S. 700-B/A. 1625-B

The proposed bill would provide conversion aid over a five-year period for districts with half-day kindergarten programs that wish to move to full-day kindergarten. This bill is consistent with SAANYS’ position to support full-day kindergarten as a required component of a K-12 system. The bill passed both houses, but was vetoed by the governor. The bill was returned to the senate which voted to override the governor’s veto and was sent to the assembly where further action is needed.

S. 2587-E/A. 208-E

This bill would require that school bus drivers be subject to random testing for drug and alcohol use by expanding the definition of motor carriers to include all drivers of school buses. The bill was passed by both houses of the legislature and is awaiting transmission to the governor.

S. 3576-C/A. 3327-C

This bill would increase from $30,000 to $35,000 the allowable salary that a public sector retiree (under age 65) could earn in public employment without a decrease in benefits. This bill has only passed in the senate.

Bill Signed by Governor

S. 7311/A. 8947

This bill was signed by the governor in April 2018 and requires all school districts to allow a student to participate in graduation if such student has been awarded a skills and achievement commencement credential or a career development and occupational studies commencement credential, but has not qualified for a Regents or local diploma. This policy must be sent to all students and parents. A student of a high school graduating class is defined as the twelfth grade class with whom the student entered into ninth grade. The law is in effect now.

A Look Ahead

If the summer months are an indicator of things to come, it would indicate that the implementation of ESSA will play a prominent role at SED and in districts. In July, SAANYS attended a two-day training on ESSA for administrators on Long Island. It was an intensive two-day training on calculations used to determine accountability status. Districts will have quite a learning curve on the seven measures used to identify student/school/district performance. An integral part of some of the measures is the 95 percent participation rate on assessments and the number of continuously enrolled students. These factors are critical for the computation of measures of student achievement. Additionally, SAANYS provided comments to the New York State Education Department on regulations for implementing ESSA. Our major areas of concern pertain to the definitions of chronic absenteeism and continuous enrollment, the use of participatory budgeting, and required principal support reports for schools identified as Comprehensive Support and Improvement schools. It is anticipated that the Board of Regents will act on the regulations in the fall.

Over the summer, many business officials have been dealing with the new building level reporting forms. Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2018 requires that 76 districts complete the New York State School Funding Transparency Form for the 2018-19 school year. The report delineates projected funding by each funding source for each building. The process has been challenging and very time consuming. This reporting is in addition to the ESSA required building level report of actual expenses by funding source due at the end of the school year.

In addition to ESSA, we expect that APPR will begin to re-emerge this fall. According to the commissioner, SED will undertake statewide meetings to identify the key areas of teacher and principal evaluations that continue to be problematic and challenging. SED will seek input in order to make recommendations for revising the current system. As you may recall at the end of the legislative session, APPR received much attention and several bills were introduced to revise the current law. The legislation never made it through both houses and the session ended without any resolution. It will be an interesting fall to see how the legislature, principal associations, elections, and SED initiatives intersect on this issue.

Another area that will be interesting to follow is the Board of Regents work on defining civic readiness. College, Career, and Civic readiness was included as an accountability performance indicator for high schools. The challenge for the Board will be to define what will be included in the definition of civic readiness and how to measure such readiness. Preliminary discussions at Board of Regents meetings have included thinking on issues such as community involvement, diversity and integration, voting, democracy, and global citizenry. Each of these concepts is very difficult to measure, so the members have explored alternative possibilities such as portfolios or culminating projects.

Whatever the fall brings, it is our goal to examine every issue and advocate for policies and actions to support our members. Your opinions and thoughts are critical. I would welcome emails or calls on any issue, requests for more information, or questions on things you have read or heard about. More information is always a good thing in government relations work, your input matters. Please feel free to contact me at (518) 782-0600 or