On May 4, SAANYS, in coordination with the NYS Federation of School Administrators (NYSFSA) representing the New York City, Buffalo and Yonkers school districts, held a breakfast reception in Albany’s Legislative Office Building to engage legislators, other education associations and community members to discuss education issues of import to school administrators. The reception was followed by meetings with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; the Assembly Ranking Member on the Education Committee, Edward Ra; the Ranking Member on the Senate Education Committee, George Latimer; and with Governor Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for Education, Jere Hochman. The issues discussed included:
- School Receivership – Schools that have achieved their performance targets should be removed from Struggling Schools/Persistently Struggling School status, and should continue to be eligible for funding – as they were previously informed by the State Education Department. It was pointed out that SED is engaging a broad range of stakeholders in developing the new accountability system under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, including the criteria for schools entering and exiting Priority School, Focus School and Struggling School status. The State Education Department, as the lead agency for education policy, should be allowed to do its job. Other aspects of the discussions of Struggling Schools and Persistently Struggling Schools included the need for more time – at least five years – for demonstrable improvement; and the recommendation to evaluate the performance of Struggling Schools and Persistently Struggling Schools in the context of other schools in the districts to ensure that other schools have not been adversely impacted.
- Delinking the Transition to §3012-d APPR Plans from State Aid Increases – It was recommended that during the moratorium period that school districts and BOCES be permitted to implement APPR Plans under §3012-c or §3012-d, as is the case this year, without forfeiting their scheduled state aid increases. The time and fiscal resources available for professional development and faculty meeting planning is limited and finite. Many school districts and BOCES would prefer to continue to operate under §3012-c so that professional development and faculty meeting agendas can be directed to matters such as instructional pedagogy rather than to the provisions of a new APPR Plan – which is certain to be revised again before the end of the moratorium.
- Property Tax Cap Amendments – The 2016-17 state property tax cap is only 0.12 percent, however, at the local level, about 80 school districts have a negative tax cap which, devastatingly, would result in a reduction of local tax support – this was never contemplated by the legislature in drafting this legislation. The general public understands the cap to be 2%, and for this reason, SAANYS supports legislation such as Assembly Bill 9026, “Two Percent is Two Percent Property Tax Cap Act.” In addition, SAANYS pushed for revisions in the Property Tax Cap procedures, such as requiring a majority rather than a super majority vote to exceed the cap.
- Education Tax Credits – Governor Cuomo continues to support tax credits that would allow up to $1 million in donations to private, parochial or public schools; and SAANYS continues to oppose such tax credits proposals that would siphon away millions of tax dollars to private and parochial school programs. The New York State constitution establishes the right to a “sound, basic education” for all students, and the public school system is the means by which this obligation is met. The State Constitution also prohibits the direct or indirect use of state money to aid or maintain religious school programs. Public education remains underfunded, and even with the state aid increase scheduled for 2016-17, they are still owed more than $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid. Parents have the “choice” of whether to send their children to private schools, public schools are for all children – we must keep our priorities in order.
Next, following the legislative reception, on May 10, SAANYS implemented a more massive lobby day effort, deploying five teams of SAANYS and NYSFSA members to meet with 16 key legislators, including the offices of Senator Carl Marcellino, Chairperson of the Senate Education Committee and Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, Chairperson of the Assembly Education Committee; as well as for another meeting with the governor’s Deputy Secretary for Education. Many timely education bills and issues were discussed throughout the day. Later, the full delegation of school administrators met with the State Education Department Senior Deputy Commissioner Jhone Ebert and with Assistant Commissioners Peter Swerdzewski and Renee Rider. Agenda items included:
- Revisions and Rollout of Math and ELA Standards and Aligned Tests
- The April Administration of 3-8 State Assessments and Student/Parent Opt Outs
- High School Graduation Pathways
- Transition to §3012-d Annual Professional Performance Review Plans
- Mental Health Issues
- Student Transgender Issues
For more information regarding the above events and other SAANYS legislative initiatives, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations, at JViola@saanys.org.