The SAANYS Government Relations Committee (GRC) met with the commissioner of education and senior staff members on February 11. This meeting was a joint meeting between SAANYS and the New York State Federation of School Administrators (NYC, Buffalo, & Yonkers). The commissioner and staff were most gracious with their time and the discussions that pursued were quite comprehensive. The agenda focused on: budgetary priorities and the proposed executive budget, accountability issues, mental health issues in schools, new requirements for school safety plans, and program leader initiatives/ professional development opportunities. Read More.
Budgetary priorities and the proposed executive budget
Members of the GRC addressed current fiscal needs within their districts. The members stressed that the highest priorities are instructional costs. Priorities have shifted from initial costs associated with PPE and cleaning supplies to program areas. Members provided examples such as required licenses for instructional programs, equipment and supplies related to art and music, professional development costs, substitute, teachers and additional costs associated with remote learning. The GRC also expressed their concerns regarding the executive budget such as overreliance on federal relief funds, reduced state aid, and inequities in the distribution of funding across districts. The commissioner expressed similar concerns in her testimony to the legislature and encouraged our continued advocacy.
These issues encompassed a large part of the meeting. GRC members began the discussion by expressing statements of support for SED’s submission of waivers requesting suspension of the state assessments and use of the assessments for the identification of school performance. GRC members expressed concern about the USDE either not approving or not approving in a timely manner the submitted waivers. The commissioner and senior staff agreed that they shared these concerns and indicated that discussions were taking place with the Board of Regents to determine alternative options. Concerns regarding insufficient devices to support CBT testing, the safety of bringing students back in to administer the tests, and the unevenness of instruction due to the use of various instruction throughout the state were voiced by all in attendance. SED indicated that they were working with USDE to the extent that they could, understanding that the secretary of education has not yet been approved. The next area of discussion on the topic of accountability focused on other areas of relief and flexibility that may be under consideration. Members of the GRC were very specific and compelling in the points raised such as: delinking participation is assessments from accountability formulas, realigning progress measuring indices, and reducing state education monitoring visits that have increased, rather than decreased. Lastly, the issue of APPR was raised, as it has been in most of our meetings with SED. As this is a matter of statute, the repeal or revision will be a matter for the legislature and executive branch.
In regard to mental health issues in schools, program leader initiatives, and school safety plans, members of the GRC discussed the increasing number and severity of mental health issues that are surfacing as the pandemic continues. Members also raised questions regarding any forthcoming guidance from SED on school safety and pandemic planning.