Tag Archives: Governor Cuomo

“Instant Teachers,” The SUNY Charter Institute Skips the Teacher Preparation Route: Politics, Muscle Flexing or Zombie Ideas That Will Not Die?

New York State has two charter authorizers, the SUNY Charter Institute  and the Board of Regents; each operates separately and maintains different standards for charter approval and charter renewals. Most charter schools have been authorized by SUNY, whose reputation is “charter friendly,” as evidenced by their recent move to extend the Success Academy charters years before their expiration date. The Regents reputation is close scrutiny and close monitoring and working closely with schools; SUNY plays less of a role in on-going support of the schools. (See list of SUNY charter schools here)

Charter schools fall into two categories, the charter school networks, charter management organizations (CMOs) that operate multiple schools, the prime example is the Success Academy Network, the Eva Moskowitz schools, 38 schools located in New York City.  The other category, referred to as community schools, or “mom and pop” schools, are single operator schools. There are currently 227 charter schools in New York City, about 1800 public schools

(Check out an earlier blog post that reviewed the charter school law and the current debate over teacher recruitment and certification).

Briefly, in July the SUNY Charter Institute proposed changes to their own regulations that would allow SUNY charter networks to “certify” teachers, the “certification” process would be wholly within the network and the State Department of Education would have no role in approving the process.

The Charter Institute argued it was more and more difficult to find certified teachers, although under the law charter schools staffs may include up to 15% uncertified teachers; public schools may only employ certified teachers

In spite of hundreds, maybe thousands of negative comments, including oppositional comments from the commissioner, the chancellor and the unions the SUNY board approved the new regulation. (Read the regulation here )

Upon approval  Commissioner Elia and Chancellor Rosa posted scathing criticism of the action (Read Rosa-Elia response here)

The teacher unions immediately announced that they intended to challenge the actions in the courts.

The SUNY Board of Trustees is appointed by the governor, and, the head of the board, Carl McCall is a close political ally of the governor.

The governor, up until now, has been a vigorous supporter of high standards for teachers. In the fall of 2014 the governor and the Board of Regents engaged in an almost vitriolic exchange of letters over the path of education in New York State. In a 20-page letter dated, 12.31.14 Jim Malatras, the New York State Director of Operations, laid out a path for education in the state. In the section dealing with teacher education Malatras wrote,

The Board of Regents also used Race To The Top funds to pilot clinically rich teacher preparation programs that are deeply embedded in classroom practice with extended teaching residencies/internships in schools rather than brief student teaching commitments. These preparation programs partnered with high-need schools to provide clinically rich experiences in return for the candidate’s commitment to serve in a high-need school where there is a shortage of well-prepared teachers. 

 In addition, the Board of Regents established new, more rigorous teacher and school building leader certification exams. Beginning May 1, 2014, new teachers must take and pass the Academic Literacy Skills test, which assesses a teacher’s literacy skills; a content specialty test, to ensure that teachers have the content knowledge they need to teach a certain subject; the edTPA, a teacher performance assessment that measures a teacher’s pedagogical skills; and the Educating All Students exam, which tests a teaching candidate’s ability to understand diversity in order to address the needs of all students, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and knowledge of working with families and communities. These new certification examinations ensure that teaching candidates have the knowledge, skills and abilities to be effective teachers. 

In 2009 Merryl Tisch, at that time the head of the Board of Regents, and now a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees and the SUNY Charter Institute board, excoriated SUNY and called for legislation to move all charter schools to the Board of Regents. (Read NY Daily News article here)

Why has the governor moved from supporting rigorous standards for prospective teachers to virtually no standards?

One theory is politics.

Politics in education?   Remember the Captain Reynaud line in the movie Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked, to find out that gambling is going on here.”

(Watch video clip here)

Governor Cuomo, his election for a third term a year away, is trying to assure that the charter school political action dollars will not be used to support a Republican candidate. While his actions may alienate the teacher unions, where can teachers go? They certainly wouldn’t go to a Republican, especially in the era of Trump, and, since Cuomo appears to be a shoo-in, they can’t afford to alienate the governor. There are far more important items: the property tax cap, levels of school funding, and, the decision over the moratorium on using student data to evaluate teachers.

Another theory: part of a multi-pronged attack on the so-called “public education monopoly” and teacher unions.

  • Law suits challenging teacher tenure law, the failed Vergara case in California and current law suits in New York State and Minnesota.
  • Supporting the use of student assessment data to measure individual teachers usually referred to as Value-Added Measures (VAM).
  • The case currently before the Supreme Court that would impact union membership dues collection.
  • And now, the beginning of an attack on teacher preparation programs, arguing that the programs do not produce better teachers, only create jobs in colleges, and, in this case charter schools, can do the job just as well and remove colleges as the teaching profession gatekeeper.

These attacks are all built on the belief that the marketplace should drive school success or failure. What is generally referred to as Portfolio Management or choice: public, charter, religious and private schools competing for students within the marketplace, the decision of parents, determining which schools survive and which don’t. The marketplace theory is based on the work of University of Chicago Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman.

Last week the Nobel folk announced the winner of the 2017 for economics – Howard Thaler, whose work directly challenges the centuries old views of the marketplace theory.

  … people, in their economic lives, are everywhere and always rational decision makers; those who aren’t either learn quickly or are punished by markets and go broke. Among the implications of this view are that market prices are always right and that people choose the right stocks, the right career, the right level of savings — indeed, that they coolly adjust their rates of spending with each fluctuation in their portfolios, as though every consumer were a mathematician, too …. this orthodoxy has totally dominated the top universities, not to mention the Nobel Prize committee.

Thaler spearheaded a simple but devastating dissent. Rejecting the narrow, [view] that serves as a basis for neoclassical theory, Thaler proposed that most people actually behave like . . . people! They are prone to error, irrationality and emotion, and they act in ways not always consistent with maximizing their own financial well being.

In his 2008 book Nudge Thaler argues that all decisions are influenced by external forces, aka biases,

… many of the familiar arguments for why people should simply be left to make choices on their own, and especially for why government should stay strictly out of the way, have little practical force. In many important areas of choice that matter both to the individual and to the rest of us (for example, when overuse of medical care drives up our insurance premiums and our taxes), the operative question is not whether to bias people’s decisions, but in which direction.

Sadly, as Paul Krugman, another Nobel laureate economist bemoans, zombie ideas keep arising from their tombs.

Whether the decision to create “instant” teachers is strictly a Cuomo political gambit or yet another deeply embedded zombie idea we’ll never know, and, the final decision will either come out of the courts or the court of public opinion.

A simple solution would have been to create a SUNY charter school Teaching Fellows program. For more than twenty years New York City, utilizing existing state alternative teacher licensing regulations recruited candidates in “hard to staff” certification areas, partnered with local colleges: an intensive summer in school and college classrooms and assigned to a school in September with a retired teacher or supervisor as mentor. The Fellows took evening courses and earned a Masters and full certification in two years. Thousands upon thousands of New York City teachers are graduates of the Teaching Fellows program. The SUNY Board of Trustees instead chose to skip colleges altogether.

Whether the reason for the decision is politics or Milton Friedman acolytes the losers are the children.

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Eva, Andrew and NYS Politics: Why is Eva Moskowitz, the Success Academy Network CEO so politically influential?

A quick review: The charter school law in New York State passed in December, 1998 at a lame duck session of the legislature called by Governor Pakati – two items on the agenda, the charter school bill and a raise, BTW, the last raise legislators received!  The law  established a quota on the number of charter schools, currently New York City  is about 25 schools below the quota, the quota for the remainder of the state is about 150 schools below the quota. Supporters of charter schools range from Milton Freedman acolytes, the anti-teacher union cabal, and, recently, Republicans feasting on charter school political action dollars. The Republicans have very few charter schools in their districts.

Under the law the Charter School Institute, part of the State University (SUNY) and the Board of Regents are charter school authorizers. The Charter School Institute maintains a detailed website – Check out here. Check out the Charter School Office of the New York State Education Department here. While the organizations, SUNY and the NYSED must comply with the law they have differing standards re approving charter school applications and renewals.

Charter Schools receive authorizations for five years, and, in the fifth year the authorizer reviews the performance of the school, The SUNY Charter School Institute extends the charter for an additional five years, or, rarely, closes the charter school. The NYSED Charter School Office can recommend to the Regents reauthorizing charters from two to a full five years, or, fail to renew and close the charter. See the just released “NYSED Protocols for Charter School Site Visits: 2017-18.

In the Spring, 2017 the SUNY Charter School Institute submitted ten requests for the extension of charters that were years away from renewal to the Board of Regents, the schools were all in the Eva Moskowitz run Success Academy Network, The Regents returned the requests to SUNY with the following comments,

Renewals to Charters Authorized by the Trustees of the State University of New York 
Your Committee recommends that the Board of Regents return the proposed charters [ten Success Academy Charter Schools with two, three and four years remaining before expiration of the charter] to the Trustees of the State University of New York for reconsideration with the following comment and recommendation:

Approving the renewal of any charter school years before the expiration of the charter does not allow timely review of the school’s educational and fiscal soundness, community support, legal compliance, or means by which the school will meet or exceed enrollment and retention targets for students with disabilities, English language learners and students who are eligible applicants for the free and reduced price lunch program. The charters should be abandoned, and the schools should be directed to resubmit the application no earlier than one year prior to the expiration of the charter term.

Under the law the extensions will go into effect after 90 days if SUNY chooses not to withdraw the renewal requests.

Why would the Charter School Institute even consider extending charters years ahead of time?  Remember the song: “Whatever Eva wants …?

Additionally, the Charter School Committee of SUNY released draft regulations: SUNY will approve plans submitted by charter networks for teacher certification in SUNY-authorized charter schools without the formal teacher certification required for all other teachers in the state.  Public comment forms open from 7/26 for 45 days here. The SUNY Charter School Institute indicated the change was necessary due to the difficulty in recruiting certified teachers; no evidence was presented to support the claim. The regulation appears to grant charter school networks wide discretion in approving prospective charter school teacher candidates.

Commissioner Elia and the Chancellor Rosa expressed  “concerns” over the plan,

“The Board of Regents and State Education Department are focused on ensuring that strong and effective teachers with the proper training, experience and credentials are educating New York’s children in every public school – including charter schools,” …. “Our review of SUNY’s teacher certification proposal is cause for concern in maintaining this expectation.”

On July 17th Ed in the Apple submitted comments to the Charter School Institute urging the Institute to withdraw the proposal and seek other avenues to recruit teachers. (Read here).

The SUNY Board of Trustees is comprised of 18 members, 15 of whom are appointed by the Governor, with consent of the NYS Senate.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the State University of New York.  The Charter Schools Committee is a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees that oversees SUNY authorized charter schools. Consisting of four members [three lawyers and a businessman], the Committee “approves or denies charter applications, revisions and renewals, administers a statewide charter school grant program, and sets SUNY charter school policies and standards.”

The SUNY Board belongs to the governor.

The Regents are responsible for “the general supervision of all educational activities within the State. The Regents are organized into standing committees, subcommittees and work groups whose members and chairs are appointed by the Chancellor.”

The Board comprises 17 members elected by a joint meeting of both houses of the State Legislature for 5 year terms [actually by the Democratic majority]: 1 from each of the State’s 13 judicial districts and 4 members who serve at large. Regents are unsalaried and are reimbursed only for travel and related expenses in connection with their official duties.

The governor has no statutory authority over the Regents.

Why does Eva Moskowitz have so much clout?  Why is the governor supporting policies clearing benefiting Moskowitz?

The 2018 Gubernatorial Election:

Three years ago Cuomo had to fight off attacks from the left in his own party to win the primary and fight off a popular, if underfunded Republican candidate. Cuomo received 54% of the vote; however, if you look at a map the pink/red (Republican) districts far outnumber the blue (Democratic) districts – the deciding factor was 80% plus majorities for Cuomo in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx (See map here). A better funded Republican could have even narrowed the gap, and, the charter school political action dollars are a key: who controls the charter school PAC dollars and how can Cuomo prevents the dollars from flowing to a Republican candidate?  Think Eva.

The 2020 Presidential Election (Not Bernie, Not Hillary)

Friends say I’m crazy,  Cuomo isn’t “presidential material,” I demur. Cuomo is hard to place on the political spectrum. He led the “fight for 15.” actively fighting Trump on immigrant issues, pro-environment, not pro decriminalization of marihuana,  did not push the “Dreamer” bill, he does not easily fall into a place on the spectrum. After a solid win in 2018 he can burnish credentials for a 2020 run for the White House. Andrew will not “leave the plane on the runway” – See Mario anecdote here.

Attacks from the Left

Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and a political neophyte received 34% of the vote in the 2014 September Democratic gubernatorial primary; the left wing of the Democratic Party was clearly unhappy with Cuomo in 2014 and there are rumblings of challenges next year. Cynthia Nixon, a popular actor and activist, and, a very strong public school parent/activist is considering running. Will the Sanders voters support a political neophyte? Will the Working Families Party deny Cuomo an endorsement?

Will the teachers union remain on the sidelines?

In 2014 NYSUT, the NYS teachers union did not make an endorsement, and, a few Long Island locals endorsed Teachout in the primary. Yes, Cuomo leans toward charter schools; however, he provided the largest increase in state education dollars, shows no interest in reviving the reviled APPR test-scored based teacher evaluation plan and appears to be in sync with the Regents in implementing the 2015 Cuomo Commission recommendations.(Read here). NYSUT has a new leadership that has had a brief and fractious relationship with the governor, members don’t love him, on the other hand staying on the sidelines is like kissing your sister, satisfying for neither party.

Can any Democrat afford to “stay on the sidelines” or vote for a third party?

Yes, Cuomo tilts, or leans, or outright supports charter schools, can any democrat afford to not vote, perhaps to facilitate the election of a Republican?  Then again, Pataki, a Republican preceded Cuomo and served for three terms (twelve years). A current-day Republican governor would not only be pro charter, s/he would also be pro voucher, anti-tenure and also support sharp restrictions on increases in property taxes. Rationally, Democrats would appear to have no place to go but support Cuomo, voters are not rational. How many democrats voted for Jill Stein instead of Hillary?  Did the Stein voters tip the scales for Trump?

I know too many teachers who are lifelong democrats who simply say they cannot “pull the lever,” excuse me, “bubble in the box” for Cuomo.

Cuomo’s flirtation with Eva may end badly; yes. he may prevent charter dollars from flowing to an Republican opponent, on the other hand, he may have alienated many “irrational” democratic voters.

Brief affairs frequently don’t end well.

Read a lengthy article in Politico musing over the end of education reform in New York and the role of Cuomo here

Tick Tock: Mayoral Control Dangles by a Thread as the Legislature Enters Its Last Day: Can the Governor Be The Deal Maker?

Klein: ‘Hopeful’ For 2-Year Mayoral Control

By Nick Reisman

A two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools is under discussion, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said at the end of a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders.

“We’re hopeful we can do a two-year extender of mayoral,” he said after the meeting. “We’re hopeful. That’s not a deal.”

 

The state legislature will adjourn tomorrow, June 21st and the staffs of the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate will be up all night trying to cobble together the outstanding issues.

Why do issues wait until the last possible chance of agreement?

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Democrats are taking a firm stance.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed. and are non-controversial..

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation: public posture – a stalemate.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  Bill,”

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor Cuomo has made his position clear last week and was pessimistic in an interview 

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home and the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

A political aphorism: when you toss a rock into a pond of feces you never know who’ll get splashed.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism, and, if the New York City school system begins to disintegrate the Republicans can “get splashed.”

With all the state offices on the ballot in 2018 and Republicans holding a narrow one-seat majority is the risk too great?  The governor, as he has frequently done, can blame the catastrophe on the “dysfunctional legislature;” however, outside of New York City the Republicans had a majority, Cuomo needs a big majority in the city, and, the Democratic voters may look at the “splash stains” on his garments.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on charter schools and parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill (see above).

Or, a simple two year extension of mayoral control and come back to fight again in 2019.

The Assembly Dems, the Senate Repubs, the Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and the governor will each by vying to be the deal-maker

For my friends in Albany a late night and cold pizza

Mayoral Control and Charter Schools: Pawns on the Chessboard of Politics

Back in the eighties a major issue in Albany was the death penalty; Republicans and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) supported a death penalty law opposed by progressive Democrats. After a few years a death penalty law passed in both houses and Governor Cuomo pere vetoed the bill; the legislature overrode the veto – New York State had a death penalty law.

A few years later a Republican operative bemoaned the passage, “It was stupid, we gave up a great election issue.”

Politics is about gaining advantage, the Republicans “intimation” that Obama was not born in the nation, constant subtle racism, Bengazi, e-mails, etc.,  have nothing to do with policy, in fact, the only policy issue – “repeal and replace” of Obamacare, is turning out to be a major negative for Republicans.

The consistent attacks worked, a Republican president, although for the party insiders the wrong Republican and both houses of Congress.

In New York State linking mayoral control to charter schools has enabled the Senate Republicans to collect substantial campaign dollars from charter school supporters across the nation by forcing reluctant Democrats to support charter school issues in order to retain mayoral control.

This year the Assembly Democrats taking a firm line.

Both houses of the state legislature, the Assembly and the Senate will adjourn on Wednesday, June 21st.

If mayoral control is not renewed New York City will revert to the prior management model – decentralization. A seven-member school board: one appointed by each of the five borough presidents and two by the mayor and 40 elected school boards, the elections would be held in May, 2018. (See decentralization law here). Virtually everyone, from the Governor to both houses of the legislature to the editorial boards of the newspapers to the good government groups totally reject a return to the previous management model – decentralization.

The legislature had three days to find common ground.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a two-year extension of mayoral control and in the same bill included tax extenders for a number of local communities, in Republican districts, that in prior years were routinely passed and are non-controversial. If the tax extenders do not pass the communities would face serious fiscal hardships.

The Republican-controlled Senate introduced three bills, all linking mayoral control to pro-charter school legislation.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, stated under no circumstances would mayoral control be linked to pro-charter school legislation.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced a  “Transparency and Accountability for Charter School Funding  bill,

This bill would provide enhanced transparency and accountability of charter schools in regards to enrollment targets, discipline policies,management and operation of the charter school, charter reserve funds,charter facilities rental aid payments, information disseminated to parents regarding probationary status, and residency dispute issues.

Read the entire bill here.

Governor has made his position clear, and, was pessimistic in an interview,

ALBANY – Gov. Cuomo expressed pessimism that the expiring law giving Mayor de Blasio control over the city school system will be renewed before the state Legislature ends its annual session next week.

… he believes any solution should include a three-year extension of the law coupled with pro-charter school provisions …

“The question is do they care enough to do it,” he said of the Assembly and Senate reaching a compromise agreement. “I would bet against it. They could have made this compromise a long time ago (during budget talks).”

Asked if he’s disturbed the governor seems to be siding with the Senate GOP rather than with his fellow Dems in the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said: “same song, different day.”

If no law is passed the legislature goes home the demise of mayoral control remains in the headlines. With minimal opposition Mayor de Blasio will be re-elected; the gubernatorial and legislative races aren’t until 2018.

The Republicans can simply walk away, allow mayor control to revert to decentralization, and absorb the criticism.

The Democrats can hold the line – mayoral control is not linked to charter schools.

The Governor can attack, as he frequently does, in his words, the dysfunctional legislature.

Or, a compromise, renew mayoral control, raise the New York City cap on the number of charter schools and pass parts of the Charter School Transparency and Accountability in Funding bill, or, a compromise that makes no sense to anyone, except the legislature.

Pure crass politics, basic ideological beliefs and egos all clash.

In the calculus of politics who gains and who loses, who is the better chess player?

If no bill is passed the legislature can return later in the summer or after election day; however, special sessions are rare.

19th century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck is credited with saying: “The two things you don’t want to see made in person are sausages and laws.”

A wise man.

The Budget Season: The Governor and the Legislature Work to Craft a Budget Before the April 1 Deadline (with lots of horse-trading)

Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made, Otto Von Bismarck

The first week in January the 213 members of the New York State legislature trekked to Albany for the beginning of the new term: 213 angry members.  Angry because they have not received a raise since 1999 – eighteen years without a raise. While the legislature is a full time job there are no prohibitions on outside employment. Many members are full time others have law or real estate practices; the salary is $78.500 plus per diems for each day in session and additional salary for committee chairmanships. The governor argued for strict limits on outside income and strict ethics reforms, the Republicans opposed income limits and both houses had doubts about the proposed ethics rules. At the last moment the governor walked away from the talks: no raises for the next two years.

Early in the morning on April 1, very early, as the sun rises in the east the legislature will complete passing the budget bills. Under the arcane budget rules the budget bills can contain policies that have nothing to do with the budget. Welcome to what was once called Baghdad on the Hudson were everyone was for sale!

Over the next three weeks legislators time in Albany will increase, lobbyists will huddle with legislators, citizens will descend on Albany to advocate for their causes. Receptions will be held, e-mailboxes will overflow every day with constituent appeals, fax machines will hum all day.

Hanging over the entire process, the elephant in the room is actually down I-95 in DC. How will federal legislation impact the Affordable Care Act (“repeal and replace” for New York State residents)? How will legislation impact Medicaid? New York State may be faced with drastic cuts to healthcare services and/or having to find billions of dollars. The decisions in Washington are months away and the legislature may have to return to Albany later in the year.

With hovering storm cloud the state will hammer out a budget:

A major education issue:

Will the budget fully restore the dollars required to fulfill the CFE lawsuit?

The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) in two detailed policy papers, “Too Many Children Still Waiting: Making Quality Early Learning a Top Priority in the 2017 Budget ” and  “Alternative Facts and Historical Fiction: Fact Checking Governor Cuomo on School Aid” explain the funding issues in detail

The Assembly, primarily representing urban areas fully supports the reports referenced above. The Senate, primarily representing suburban and rural areas wants to assure that the areas they represent will retain current funding levels and additional future funding. About two/thirds of education dollars are generated by property taxes, with increases limited to 2% or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. High income districts, high property values equals more dollars for schools, lower income, lower property values, less money for schools. The state formula attempts to equalize funding; however, New York State leads the nation in the disparity of school funding within the state despite the state distributed share.

In budget negotiations everything is linked, in the dim recesses of the Capital agreements will be made, Carl Heastie, John Flanagan and Andrew Cuomo, actually their surrogates, will patch together the agreement,

Folks will be appalled, deals made behind closed doors, they will call for transparency, for sunlight, in my view failing to understand that governments, from 5th BC century Athenian democracy to Albany in 2017 is made up of governments that reflect the governed. When compromise is not possible, when rigid ideology rules, as we find in Washington, the result is gridlock, the absence of legislation; in Albany, in spite progressive democrats and tea party republicans, compromises are achieved.

James Madison, in Federalist Paper # 51 reminds us,

 Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Some in both houses, angry over the failure of the governor to support a salary increases are threatening not to have a timely budget, probably a baseless threat.

Another education issue:

Will the governor support, oppose or ignore bills to create charter school transparency? (Read bill here)

In 2014 the state teacher union made no endorsement for governor and a number of locals endorsed Cuomo’s opponent in the democratic primary. In the next budget cycle the governor was kind to charter schools, increased the probationary period for teachers and verbally assaulted teachers and their union, The union (NYSUT) responded with TV commercials, the governor’s favorability rating slumped.  In December, 2015, after months of quiet diplomacy a Cuomo-appointed task force report included a moratorium on the use of test scores to assess teachers. (Read the report with the twenty recommendations here)

Some teachers ask me: how can you “trust” Cuomo?

Cuomo is the governor, and will undoubted be better for education and teachers than a Republican governor.

Trust is not the issue: sometimes interests align, sometimes they don’t. Coalitions are formed around an issue and fade away afterwards. I file grievances against my superintendent and work with him to seek funding for a project. We agree to disagree.

In 2009 the UFT, the New York City teacher union “went to war” with Mayor Bloomberg, knowing that no contract would be negotiated for at least four years, and also knowing that the mayor was term-limited and the City Council was on the union side. The mayor left office tarnished, it was a fight he should have avoided.  “Going to war” with Cuomo is another story, there are no term limits in Albany, and, the governor has extraordinary powers.

For the past year or so the governor has been silent on education, the Cuomo Commission report aligns with policies supported by teachers and  their union, and, the 2016 budget contained considerable education dollars.

As the clock ticks down towards April 1 the governor’s Excelsior Scholarship plan, free tuition in CUNY and SUNY for full time students whose parent earn less than $125,000, will be vigorously debated (See an argument here).

After an Easter-Passover  recess the legislature will return to Albany, two day a week sessions escalating to five days a week before the mid-June adjournment.

Tuesday is Lobby Day for the UFT, under a long-established agreement a union member for each school is released to travel to Albany to lobby for the issue of the day – this year: full implementation of the CTE funding decision.

Back in the day I always took kids on the bus to Albany. I assigned them the task of researching the issue, practice making a presentation, and, the kids led the discussion with the electeds. At the end of each term I handed out a brief student survey (“What did you like best about the class? Why? What did you like least? Why? What could I do differently? Quick! What one thing do remember about the class? Why?)  Kids remembered the trip to Albany and their presentation. (“It made me feel important … like I was making a difference.”)

Colleagues warned me, you get in trouble allowing the kids to make presentation. I thought, can you get in trouble teaching kids to think?

It didn’t work too well for the first teacher “brought up on charges, ” a while ago, 399 BC, Socrates got in trouble,

“Socrates is guilty of crime in refusing to recognize the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young.”

The penalty; death.

Teacher discipline rules were tough way back in Athens.

According to Churchill, we’ve come a long way,

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Albany 2017: What Can We Expect from the Governor, the Legislature and the Regents?

In a few weeks Donald Trump will put his hand on a bible and repeat the constitutional oath of office, a month or so later the Senate will confirm Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. Yes, she’s totally unqualified, is totally committed to vouchers, to charter schools and an enemy of public schools. Unfortunately the Senate has 52 Republicans and it is highly unlikely that three Republicans will vote against DeVos.

It is impossible to know how a Trump presidency will impact New York State: drastic cuts in federal entitlement programs, cuts in federal support of Medicaid, a range of possibilities that will adversely effect New York State finances are all possibilities.

With a dark cloud hovering   the Albany legislature convened today.

A coming attraction of the legislative session.

The Assembly and the Senate:

The New York State legislature is off and running, and very unhappy. The issue: the absence of a salary raise. The last raise was at a lame duck special session in December 1998; Governor Pataki offered a salary raise in exchange for the charter school law. Yes, that’s right, a simple “deal” that was supported by Democrats as well as Republicans. The legislature can only vote raises for the incoming legislators. Almost everyone gets reelected, in fact, they are voting raises for themselves.  Legislators will have had twenty years without  a raise; with the increasing turnover in the legislature most of the members have been elected since 1998.

Legislators are paid $79,500 plus per diems for days in Albany plus a stipend for serving as a chair of a committee ranging from $4,000 to $16,000 for the few top committees. The legislature convenes on January 4th, sessions will be held two days a week, increasing in time until the April 1 budget date, and, resume after the Easter-Passover break and adjourn in mid June.

The legislature has extremely low favorability ratings with the public.

Each member maintains an office in their district, with sufficient funding to pay for a small staff.

About 15,000 bills will be introduced in the Assembly, maybe 500 will become law.

The Assembly is led by Carl Heastie, the relatively new Speaker. The Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the 150 member Assembly. The Senate is more complicated, much more complicated. There are 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the 63-member Senate; however, five Democratic members broke away from the other Democrats and formed the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) led by Bronx Senator Jeff Klein. The IDC caucuses with the Republicans; John Flanagan, the majority leader of the Senate leads the Senate, although, he requires IDC acquiescence.

The Democratic Assembly members wanted a raise and were willing to give up outside income, the Republican Senate members wanted a raise and were unwilling to give up outside income. The Governor wanted a strict ethics package …. eventually … the talks faded.

Democratic Assembly members who were unhappy with the Governor, now despise him.

They hinted they would not attend the Governor’s State of the State address, the Governor changed the process, five separate addresses across the state with invited guests only. (I sent in my request for an invite – we’ll see)

The Governor:

Governor Cuomo rarely, very rarely gives press conferences; he strictly controls media access and the narrative.

On one hand he chose to attack teachers and their union, to support charter schools, to vindictively punish teachers for the widespread support of Zephyr Teachout, and, to reverse course, dump Merryl Tisch as leader of the Board of Regents as well as Tisch supporters on the Regents, support a moratorium on the use of testing to assess teachers, support substantial increases in state aid; if he hasn’t made 180 degree change in attitudes towards teachers its pretty close to it.

His adoption of the Sanders/Clinton “make colleges free” plan resulted in headlines in the national press.

Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign for reelection in 2018 is off and running with an eye on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020.

Angry Democrats and/or Republicans could sidetrack an April 1 on time budget embarrassing the Governor.

Remember the political aphorism: when you toss a rock into a pool of feces you never know whose going to be splashed.

The Issues:

State revenues are down, Trump’s policies could reduce federal dollars to New York State or more likely shift budgetary responsibilities from the feds to the state.

With budgetary woes hovering can the state afford to begin to implement the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) judicial decision?

Will the state continue to increase state aid to school districts at the rate of the last few years?

If the legislature does not agree to an April 1 budget the Governor can opt to fund the state through the continuing resolution process, unwieldy,; however, Governor Patterson used the process to bypass the legislature.

The Cuomo apotheosis: The Governor is far more in sync with the current leadership of the Board of Regents. The December 2015 Cuomo Commission Task Force Report set out a roadmap and slowly the Regents are moving to implement the recommendations.

The elephant in the room are the over 200,000 opt out parents. The state tests later this spring will continue to be three days for English Language Arts (ELA) and three days for mathematics. The evolution to computer-based testing and the problems with lack of computer hardware and band width could lengthen the testing period. The Regents are in the midst of building a new accountability plan for the state could move from proficiency (a single score) to growth (a comparison of last year to this year), or, begin to experiment with alternatives, such as performance tasks, portfolios, that are referred to as authentic assessments.

The Regents have been flirting with a big question: high school diploma requirements.

Do the current high school diploma requirements prepare students for the world of work and post secondary education?

Should we revert to a lesser or specialized diploma for students with disabilities?

Should recent immigrants have to meet the same requirements as all other students?

Why are Career and Technical Education, (CTE) programs, formerly known as Vocational Education declining across most of the state?  Are state policies and regulations too complicated? antiquated? Can/Should the state directly intervene to create more CTE schools/programs?

Are we adequately preparing prospective teachers?  Why has the enrollment in college teacher preparation programs dropped so precipitously?  Can the state both uncomplicate and bring coherence to teacher preparation programs?

New York State leads the nation in the inequality of school funding. Richer, higher tax school districts spend  far more dollars per student than poorer, low tax districts. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. About 80% of education dollars come from local property taxes, state aid from Albany is distributed in a fairer manner; however the variation in per capita funding remains immense. Should the Regents propose a major revision in school funding?  A political land mine!!!

Will the Assembly, the Senate, the Governor and the Board of Regents dance together, or, will the dark clouds hovering over the nation’s capital move East?

A nineteenth century political wag wrote, “No one’s life, liberty or property is safe while the New York State legislature is in session.”

Maybe a little too pessimistic,  the agenda is full, and I am cautiously hopeful.

Assessing What Teachers Teach and What Students Learn: Creating Authentic Assessments for Students and Teachers

Student waiving his hand in the air enthusiastically, “Teacher, teacher, is it on the test?”

These days the answer is, “I have no idea.”

The current Common Core grades 3-8 tests are not content-based they are standards-based, they “test” the ability to identify skills-acquisition; content, curriculum, has fallen by the wayside.

See two 9th grade Social Studies Standards below:

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

I have no objection; the standards are perfectly reasonable and I would expect that teachers would address the standard in their lessons.  Testing companies, in New York State Questarai, creates test items that measure the ability to exhibit knowledge of  the standards; there are no New York State created curricula.

Standards are not new, we have had standards for decades. For a period in the nineties teachers had to include standards in each lesson plan. After the topic and the aim we were required to write three SWBATs (Students Will Be Able To)  standards related to the specific lesson. In many schools anything displayed in classrooms or hallway walls had to include the specific standard.

Standards are abstract and not related to content. New York State does provide curriculum modules on the open source Engage NY website. See an example of a Ninth Grade ELA Curriculum Module here. These are not required, they are detailed and the claim is that they are aligned to the Common Core and school districts frequently adopt the Engage NY modules.

School districts rarely have the ability to create their own curricula, they simply “adopt” the Engage NY so-called curriculum modules.

The state did spent years working on and finally released Social Studies Frameworks, close to a curriculum,

This Framework integrates existing New York State Learning Standards and the New York State Core Curriculum for Social Studies into a single, three-part document. It is intended to serve as a guide for local districts in developing their Social Studies curricula.

The state makes it clear, developing curricula is the responsibility of the local district.

The math side of the Common Core State Standards are far closer to what we would call a curriculum – see an example: the Second Grade Mathematics curriculum module.

Sol Stern, in the current issue of City Journal, is sharply critical of the absence of a “coherent, grade by grade curriculum,”

“The existing K-12 school system (including most charters and private schools) has been transformed into a knowledge-free zone. It is now producing the ‘dumbest generation’ ever …. digital-age social media stupefies young Americans and makes them less interested in serious reading than any previous generation. Add in the education establishment’s refusal to teach knowledge in the classroom and the result becomes a toxic mix of intellectual apathy and ignorance.”

Stern asks, “Will conservatives at long last begin working to restore a knowledge-based curriculum?”

No Sol, if  you define conservatives as the Betsy DeVos acolytes they will be focused on choice, and leave decisions to the Local Education Authority (LEA), including creationism as an alternative theory.

Governor Cuomo, to his credit, has suspended the use of the grades 3-8 state tests to evaluate teachers, the Board of Regents adopted a four-year moratorium.

Summative assessments, the six-day April/May state tests or the end of the term Regents Exams are not the best way to assess students or teachers. As we know school districts, schools and teachers coach students to pass tests, the test is the ultimate determinant of teacher and student performance.

In New York State teachers are currently assessed by a combination of principal observations and a locally negotiated Measurement of Student Learning (MOSL); during the moratorium  state test scores are not part off the teacher assessment process.

The United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education, after many months of negotiations, finally agreed to a Annual Personnel Performance Review (APPR), the principal/teacher assessment metric.. See a summary of the plan here.

The new  APPR agreement makes major strides towards assessing what a teacher actually teaches,

* Project Based Learning assessment, students final assessment is at least partly composed of work the student has developed over time in  conjunction with a specific project based on a learning unit.

* Student Learning Inventories, collections of student work that will include both Department of Education  developed components as well as classroom artifacts that capture student growth.

Major steps to an authentic assessment system – assessing what teachers teach and students learn.

The Secretary of Education nominee appears centered on providing opportunities for choice, and we can expect battles over Title 1 funding and a range of other contentious issues.  The new law, ESSA, does “reserve for the states,” a wide range of education decision-making.

The New York City APPR agreement may provide a path for the state in the creation of the plan that the feds require of each state: authentic assessments.