In this newsletter you will find some highlights from the state budget. Even in economic hard times, the Assembly remained strong in our effort to keep funding a sound basic education for all students in the state of New York.
The Education Committee has also held five public hearings on school governance in New York City. These hearings have given the committee insight into the impact of the 2002 and 2003 legislation on the students of New York City.
Meeting the commitment to school districts
The budget lifts the governor’s freeze on reimbursable expense-based aids, including transportation, building aid and BOCES. This helps to ensure that school districts have access to the funds they need. Foundation aid for the 2009-10 school year will remain at current levels. The Assembly continues its historic commitment to foundation aid by phasing in full funding over three years, a year earlier than the executive’s proposal, starting in 2011-12.
Special education cost shift
The budget rejects a shift in cost to school districts for the preschool special education program, saving school districts $185 million in the 2009-10 school year.
Staying committed to universal pre-kindergarten
The Assembly continues its commitment to UPK by maintaining funding at $376 million. In addition, the budget accepts the executive’s proposal to allow for the mid-year expansion of programs that started in the 2008-09 school year.
“The Assembly has been on the forefront of fighting for the growth of the universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program to ensure that every 4-year-old in the state has the opportunity to get a head start in school. Over the past three years, funding and participation for pre-K programs have grown dramatically,” Nolan said.
Centers for Teaching Excellence
To provide teachers with the resources they need to succeed and become even better teachers, the budget fully restores executive cuts to teacher resource and computer training centers, which provide ongoing professional education services to the state’s teachers, allocating $40 million for the 2009-10 school year. $2 million to the teacher mentor intern program, a program that enables experienced teachers in a district to provide guidance and support to beginning teachers, was also restored.
Contract for Excellence
The budget will continue the Contract for Excellence program for the 2009-10 school year. School districts that are required to prepare a Contract for Excellence will maintain the same level of funding as last year, ensuring schools will not have to reduce spending on allowable programs, including class-size reductions, academic after-school programs and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.
In addition, the budget creates new reporting requirements for New York City regarding its Five Year Class Size Reduction Plan to include detailed information by school on:
the number of classrooms and teachers that existed prior to receiving CFE funds and the number of new classrooms and new teachers created with funds;
the actual average class sizes for each year funding was received; and
those school districts that received CFE funds and did not reach class size reduction goals and the actions to be taken in those schools to reduce class sizes.
Additional education restorations
$10.58 million in library aid and $79,000 to the Talking Book and Braille Library;
$6.9 million for adult literacy education programs to help adults who have difficulties reading and writing improve their communication skills – an increase of $2 million over the executive proposal;
$15 million in operating aid for public television and radio stations for educational programming – an increase of $5.6 million over the executive proposal;
$2.5 million set aside within employment preparation education for students with high school diplomas still needing basic skills;
$2 million for teacher salary enhancements for those who teach preschool and school-age students with special needs;
$1.5 million for workforce education for a total of $13 million within employment-preparation education;
$1.38 million to Math and Science High Schools; and
$1 million for workplace literacy to improve literacy and worker skill levels.
Federal stimulus funds
The budget uses the following federal funds to help local school districts over the next two years:
$906 million in Title I funds, which is financial assistance for schools with high percentages of disadvantaged children to help ensure that all children meet the state’s academic standards;
$794 million for the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), ensuring that mandatory early intervention, special education and related services are provided to children with disabilities;
$200 million for State Incentive Grant and Innovation Funds;
$253 million in Title I school improvement grants, allowing identified schools in need of improvement to use the funds for professional development, before and after-school programs, and instructional materials for students and teachers;
$55.5 million in technology grants for schools to buy computers, networks and instructional software;
$28.8 million for vocational rehabilitation, which includes funds for independent living centers that help people with disabilities learn to live more independently in their communities;
$20 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund;
$6 million for cafeteria equipment; and
$4.5 million to provide equal access and support services for the education of homeless children and youth.
“Our commitment to education will not only help the state weather this economic storm but will relieve the burden on local taxpayers by providing the extra resources we need to educate children throughout the state,” Nolan said.
Speaker Sheldon Silver has appointed two new majority members to the committee, Assemblywoman Joan Millman from Brooklyn who represents the 52nd Assembly District and Assemblymember Mark Weprin from Queens who represents the 24th Assembly District. Former minority leader Jim Tedisco appointed Jane Corwin from Erie/Niagara who represents the 142nd Assembly District. I welcome all of the new members and look forward to working with them during the upcoming year.
Board of Regents
The State Legislature appointed Dr. Christine Cea to the Staten Island seat and Wade Norwood to the at-large position on the State Education Board of Regents. Joseph Bowman and Saul Cohen were also re-appointed to their current seats.
“The addition of Christine Cea and Wade Norwood, along with the return of Joseph Bowman and Saul Cohen, continues to bring talent and expertise to the Board of Regents. These men and women will help guide our effort to ensure quality education for every child in the state,” said Nolan.
I would also like to congratulate Regent Merryl Tisch on becoming Chancellor of the Board of Regents.
“Merryl Tisch has worked hard for the children of New York State. Her leadership has helped set standards of excellence for the children of this state. I look forward to continuing to work with her and the rest of the Regents,” said Nolan.
State Education Commissioner Richard Mills addressed the committee during the first meeting. Commissioner Mills spoke to the committee about the difficult times that many school districts are facing and addressed the many issues that members are seeing in their districts. Assemblywoman Nolan also held a meet and greet for committee members and New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein.
During the 2002 and 2003 Legislative sessions, the Legislature approved the most comprehensive governance changes to the New York City School District. The mayor was provided control of the management of the City’s schools through the ability to appoint the Chancellor of the City District and a majority of the members of the City Board of Education. This translates into power affecting city-wide education policies; the development of a master facilities plan and five-year education facilities capital plan; administrative functions; the development of a procurement policy for public schools; and management over budgetary process and school-based budgeting. As the law is set to sunset on June 30th of this year, the committee is interested in hearing about the impact of mayoral control on the City’s school system and how modifications to the law can address concerns and help to improve the current structure. Hearings were scheduled in all five boroughs and we are seeking to hear input from parents, teachers, students, advocates, and all other interested parties.
Queens: January 28 at Queensborough Hall
Manhattan: February 6 at Assembly Hearing Room
Staten Island: February 12 at The College of Staten Island
Bronx: March 13 at Lehman College
Brooklyn: March 20 at New York City Technical College
Queens: 8.5 hours
Manhattan: 10.5 hours
Staten Island: 7 hours
Bronx: 9.5 hours
Brooklyn: 10 hours
Total: 45.5 hours
Queens: 43 testified and 54 pre-registered
Manhattan: 50 testified and 77 on witness list, plus overflow of another 57
Staten Island: 21 testified and 31 pre-registered
Bronx: 66 testified and 95 pre-registered
Brooklyn: 65 testified and 130 were pre-registered
Recurring issues that witnesses spoke about included parent and community involvement, Community Education Councils, graduation rates, 311 phone system, procurement practices, the delivery of special education services under mayoral control, ELL, and school closures.
Transcripts from the hearings can be found by clicking here.