NYS Constitution: Regents of the University of the State of New York
§2. The corporation created in the year one thousand seven hundred eighty-four, under the name of The Regents of the University of the State of New York, is hereby continued under the name of The University of the State of New York. It shall be governed and its corporate powers, which may be increased, modified or diminished by the legislature, shall be exercised by not less than nine regents. (Formerly §2 of Art. 9. Renumbered and amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938.)
In most states governors appoint boards of education who select a commissioner. In California the superintendent of public instruction is elected in a statewide election and the eleven members of the board are appointed by the governor.
In New York State the seventeen members of the regents are elected by a joint meeting of the state legislature, which means by Assembly Speaker Silver, and the regents select the commissioner.
Five of the seventeen regents are educators; others are lawyers, businessman, doctors or experience in other public agencies. The agenda of the regents is set by the commissioner and is usually approved by the regents. Occasionally the regents balk: the Global Studies regents has the lowest passing rate, as a remedy the commissioner proposed making the regents optional, the regents pushed back.
The commissioner appoints task forces, committee of practitioners, think tanks, groups of stakeholders who recommend policy to the commissioner. The New York State School Superintendents Association also passes along proposed policy to the commissioner.
Change is painstakingly slow.
Stakeholders vigorously defend their turf.
The regulations governing the teaching of English Language Learners (Part 154) have been basically unchanged for three decades, the achievement of English Language Learners, with a few exceptions, has been deplorable, yet, the stakeholders defend the current regulations.
The governor announced the appointment of a 20-member commission to review a range of issues. The commission will be led by former Citibank CEO Dick Parsons contains none of the New York State stakeholders. No regents, no principal, no teacher, no union, no parents.
The chancellors of CUNY and SUNY, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the lead attorney in the fiscal equity law suit, a charter school network head, not for profit school support organizations and some virtual learning folks fill out the commission.
Governors (and Presidents) appoint commissions to,
* postpone politically sensitive issues (“We’ll wait until the commission reports.”)
* gain “cover” for controversial issues (“I support the recommendations of the blue ribbon panel”).
* focus public attention and gain support for complex issues (“Polls support these dramatic changes”).
The charge to the commission addresses the range of issues confronting the state, issues that have are both controversial and firmly embedded throughout the state for eons.
Find ways to improve teacher recruitment and performance, including the teacher evaluation system:
… The Commission will examine factors contributing to teacher recruitment and performance including: incentives to hire and retain high-quality teachers; improvements in the teacher evaluation system to ensure New York is implementing one of the strongest evaluation systems in the country; the use of teacher evaluations for decisions regarding promotion, hiring and termination as required in the teacher evaluation law; and teacher preparation, certification and education programs to ensure that teachers are properly trained to best educate our students.
Improve student achievement:
… The Commission will examine factors in raising student achievement from prekindergarten through high school including: state accountability and curriculum requirements; model programs to improve student achievement beginning in early learning programs and continuing throughout high school; … and policies to improve student attendance and retention.
Examine education funding, distribution and costs:
New York spends more per pupil on its education system than any other state. Although funding is dictated by diverse local needs, education spending is too often focused on administrative overhead and benefits rather than the classroom. The Commission will examine factors that impact spending in education, including: school funding and distribution of State Aid; efficiency and utilization of education spending at the district level; the percentage of per-pupil funding that goes to the classroom as compared to administrative overhead and benefits; approaches to improving special education programs and outcomes while also reducing costs; identifying ways to reduce transportation costs; identifying strategies to create significant savings and long-term efficiencies; and analysis of district-by-district returns on educational investment and educational productivity to identify districts that have higher student outcomes per dollar spent, and those that do not.
Increase parent and family engagement in education:
… The Commission will examine state and local policies to increase parent and family engagement, including: how the school calendar meets the needs of students and families to optimize engagement such as parent-teacher conferences and half-days; district and school-level policies to address student attendance issues; access to information regarding teacher effectiveness; and parental involvement in school policies such as placement of students in low-performing schools and in the classrooms of ineffective teachers.
Examine the problem of high-need and low-wealth school communities:
… The Commission will examine the ways to better serve students in high-need urban and rural communities, including: identifying how the unique challenges facing students in each high-need district create obstacles to academic success; comparing best practices and services that will meet the needs of our high-risk students; and prioritizing spending in high-need school districts in order to address problems that may require additional or different services and adequately prepare high-risk students in urban and rural schools.
Find the best use of technology in the classroom:
… The Commission will identify the strategies for making the best use of technology in the classroom, including: improving access to high quality educational programs through technology in geographically diverse districts with small populations; addressing cost barriers to providing high quality educational programs that can be delivered through the use of technology in the classroom; …
Examine New York’s education system to ensure it meets the needs of students while respecting the taxpayer:
New York’s education system is organized into 700 school districts, more than half of which educate fewer than 2,000 students. Each of the 700 school districts has its own administration and back office functions, creating duplication, waste, and inefficiencies in the way school districts deliver education. The Commission will examine potential strategies to reorganize the state’s education system including district consolidation and/or shared services; comparing models from other states to achieve efficiencies and improved education outcomes; identifying reforms and savings in special education; maximizing informed participation in local elections; and facilitating shared services, consolidation and regional governance.
The charge to the commission is to recommend a major overhaul of the decision-making process, the structure of the system, recommendations that must lead to legislation.
Inherent in the process is a criticism of the regents model as well as the potential marginalization of the role of the regents. While the NYS constitution requires a body called the regents their function is set by state legislation.
The commissioner is driving the implementation of the Race to the Top grant as well as a shift to the Common Core State Standards in the classrooms of the state. The governor sees RttT as nibbling at the edges – the charge to the commission is a total reconfiguring of the delivery of education in the state.
Ultimately whatever the commission recommends must be converted into legislation: the key players are: Speaker Silver, Majority leader Skelos (or John Sampson if the dems seize control of the Senate in November) and Cuomo.
Three men in a room.
The stakeholders will ask their legislators to resist: to defend or espouse their views; be it consolidation of school districts, mandate relief or the school funding formula or whatever.
Governor Cuomo has been a master at maneuvering politically charged issues through a potentially recalcitrant legislature. In spite of the opposition of labor the legislature passed a new pension system, Tier 6, in exchange for governor allowing each house of the legislature to draw lines that advantaged the majority party.
Will his artistry at the wiles of realpolitik allow him to pass legislation that is opposed by a range of stakeholders? In 1999, at a December, lame duck session of the legislature Governor Pataki steered through the original charter school bill in exchange for a legislative pay raise – the last pay raise for the legislature.
On one hand the regents model is slow, even laborious, and dominated by a commissioner and a chancellor. Should an elected governor be the actual decision-maker for education policy? Or, will we head down the path of New York City with a Mayor who uses his education policy power to punish?
Is the governor only interesting in lowering school costs?
New York State does have among the widest disparities in school funding in the nation, high-tax, high wealth districts in the affluent suburbs spend more than twice as much per student as low-tax, low wealth rural districts – will the governor attempt to drive dollars to the neediest?
For some the commission is simply a power grab, for others a much needed look at a dysfunctional system.
Remember: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t plotting against you!