Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Peter Goodman is a close observer of city and state education policy in Néw York. In this post, he describes how Governor Andrew Cuomo bypassed the state Constitution to impose his own ideas on nearly 200 struggling schools across the state.

Since the state Constitution gives the governor no role in education policy, Cuomo used the budget process for his coup.

“True to his word the Governor attached a number of proposals to the budget: extending tenure for new teachers from three to four years, another principal-teacher evaluation plan (the third in four years) and receivership, a system to deal with low performing schools.

“From April through June the Board of Regents grappled with the dense, new, teacher evaluation law: an Education Learning Summit, two lengthy and contentious public Regents meetings, thousands upon thousands of emails, faxes, letters and phone calls to the Governor and Regents members all protesting elements of the new law. Eventually the Regents approved a set of regulations that will require the 700 school districts in New York State to negotiate the implementation of the new law.

“What received virtually no discussion was receivership – a system by which “struggling” schools are given two years to improve before they are removed from their school district and placed under the supervision of a receiver, who has sweeping powers including the ability to change sections of collective bargaining agreements. The Lawrence Massachusetts receivership district is frequently referenced as a successful example of the receivership model (See discussion here and the Mt Holyoke School District is in the process of entering receivership, with strong opposition from the community and teachers (Read discussion here).

“The New York State model is directed at schools rather than school districts.

[The new law says:] “In a district with a “Persistently Struggling School,” the superintendent is given an initial one-year period to use the enhanced authority of a Receiver to make demonstrable improvement in student performance or the Commissioner will direct that the school board appoint an Independent Receiver and submit the appointment for approval by the Commissioner. Additionally, the school will be eligible for a portion of $75 million in state aid to support and implement its turnaround efforts over a two-year period.”

“In the first year the superintendent, with “enhanced authority” has to show that the school has made “demonstrable improvement in student performance” or the school board, with the approval of the Commissioner will appoint an Independent Receiver.”

New York City recently started a 3-year turnaround program, but most of them are now targeted for receivership.

What is receivership? It means the school is handed over to an outsider with sweeping powers, “including requiring that all teachers reapply for their positions.”

Cuomo has no experience or knowledge about schools, other than having gone to schools. But he is threatening scores of schools either to improve or get taken over. This is a continuation of his vendetta against public schools and their teachers. In his way of thinking, the best way to bring about change is by threatening to beat up the other. Improve or die.

New York state’s new Conmissioner of Education warned Buffalo to “fix” their schools or she would place the district in receivership.

It’s worth recalling the state’s previous attempt to “fix” a failing district. In 2002, the legislature passed a law permitting a state takeover of the segregated Roosevelt school district on Long Island.

John Hildebrand of Newsday summed up the gains and losses in 2013, when the state relinquished control.

“New York State’s historic takeover of Roosevelt schools has fallen short of its purpose in boosting student academic performance, raising questions over how Albany might better deal with struggling districts in the future, policymakers say. The state is highly unlikely ever to attempt another direct takeover of a local district, those officials add. Albany’s intervention ends Monday, after 11 years and more than $300 million in extra state spending.

The period — marked by limited scholastic progress and memorable mistakes by state officials and their appointees — was the first and only time the state ever managed a local school system. “I can tell you right off the bat that the state Education Department has no capabilities to run a school district,” said Roger Tilles of Great Neck, who is Long Island’s representative to the state Board of Regents. “We need other alternatives, if we’re ever going to turn around other districts that are really not succeeding.” Regents set policy for the Education Department, which has run Roosevelt since state lawmakers approved the takeover in 2002. Tilles joined the board three years later.

By some measures, academic achievement has risen. In the 2011-12 school year, for example, 87 percent of Roosevelt High School’s graduates — 159 students in all — earned Regents diplomas. Only 12 percent, or 10 students, obtained such credentials in 2001-02. Regents diplomas signify completion of at least some college-prep coursework. The end of state control was hailed as “Roosevelt Independence Day” and “a historic moment” by school board leaders speaking Saturday before a high school graduation crowd of more than 1,000. Parents and other residents, both there and at Friday’s eighth-grade moving-up ceremony, voiced cautious optimism over the district’s prospects under local management. “This gives Roosevelt a chance to show its self-worth,” said the Rev. Al Henry, pastor of the local End Time Ministries church, whose daughter, Alyshia, 14, will enter ninth grade in September. “I think we have a 75 percent chance to overcome our past failures.”

How Roosevelt stacks up

In relative terms, Roosevelt remains far behind most other districts in student performance. Only 3.8 percent of 2011-12 graduates earned a Regents diploma with Advanced Designation, showing they were well-prepared for college. Nassau County’s average was 52.4 percent. The district’s high school has languished on Albany’s list of lowest-achieving schools throughout the takeover. The middle school and Centennial Avenue Elementary School also are listed as low performers. “I don’t think the state’s intervention was a plus,” said Dorothy Boxley, a 50-year Roosevelt resident and former education chairwoman for the local branch of the NAACP.

Roosevelt is a relatively small district, with about 2,800 students in a community of less than two square miles in the heart of Hempstead Town. The district’s enrollment is 53 percent black and 39 percent Hispanic, and 56 percent of all students received subsidized lunches in the 2011-12 school year.

The district is essentially tied with the Hempstead system as Nassau County’s poorest in terms of personal income, and historically has struggled to keep pace with wealthier systems nearby. The state’s deep involvement in Roosevelt dates to 1976, when it approved the first in a series of financial bailouts.

Some analysts say that comparing Roosevelt against wealthier districts overlooks the intertwined effects of poverty and housing discrimination on student performance. More than half of its students live below or near the poverty line; 21 percent speak limited English. “Nobody at the national, state or local levels wants to address the fact that there’s no magic bullet for improving the school performance of children who live in poverty,” said Alan Singer, a professor of secondary education at Hofstra University in Hempstead. “You cannot improve fundamentally their school performance without addressing the condition of their lives,” Singer said.

The 2002 takeover law gave state education commissioners unprecedented powers over Roosevelt and authorized state control for a minimum of nine years, with an optional two-year extension. Over time, commissioners ousted elected school board members, named replacements, exercised vetoes over local spending and appointed three separate superintendents. One provision of the law allowed for gradual resumption of local school board elections, which resulted in frequent clashes between the state’s appointees and elected trustees.

Albany pumped in extra money over the 11 years of intervention. Roosevelt received more than $210 million in state commitments for school reconstruction, and a total of $90 million in operating aid on top of what districts normally receive.

Any state takeover failure in Roosevelt has not been for lack of trying. In recent years, for instance, high school teachers such as Teri McGrath, Yolette Wright and Christina Squillante have taught a growing number of Advanced Placement courses set at a college level. Many enrolled teens are the sons and daughters of immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti — in some cases, the first in their families to speak fluent English….

Albany’s intervention had two broad goals from the outset. One objective — the easier to accomplish, as it turned out — revolved around Roosevelt’s management and infrastructure. The idea was to curb local political infighting, erase budget deficits and rebuild aging schools — two of which were deemed safety hazards. Those efforts have been largely successful, though school construction projects have been marked by delays and cost overruns, and some residents worry about the cost of upkeep on newly expanded schools. Exhibit A is Roosevelt’s once-shabby high school. The sprawling, two-story structure is due to reopen in September following a $66.9-million renovation and expansion that includes newly air-conditioned classrooms, 16 science and computer labs, a dance studio and job-training centers for prospective chefs and nurses. Completion of the high school project caps a districtwide, $245.5-million reconstruction effort launched in 2004 — the most ambitious face-lift of its sort ever undertaken on the Island. Since May, student groups have toured the rebuilt high school, admiring its features. Brianna Doe, 16, a sophomore, said she was especially impressed by new fume-suppressant safety equipment in laboratories that will allow her and classmates to do science experiments they’ve never tried before. “I was wowed, the building was so beautiful,” said Doe, who served as a volunteer tour guide. The other objective was to boost students’ academic achievement to levels acceptable under state and federal standards….

Roosevelt High School remains on the state’s list of so-called Schools Under Registration Review, or SURR. The list includes schools in the state’s bottom 5 percent, academically speaking. Roosevelt High has been stuck there more than 20 years running — a state record. Technically, SURR schools failing to improve can be stripped of state registrations — shut down, in other words. The state, however, has never spelled out exactly how that might work in a district, such as Roosevelt, with only one high school…

Mismanagement by some state-appointed school administrators left a bad taste. In September 2006, the Education Department discovered that the superintendent at the time, Ronald O. Ross, had run up a budget deficit eventually pegged at $8 million. Ross insisted the extra spending was essential to expand student services, but expenses included $6,000 for his own planned educational travel to Argentina and Antarctica. After public outcry, the trip was canceled. State administrators encountered embarrassments of their own. In January 2007, Education Department officials revealed that construction of a new Roosevelt Middle School was costing significantly more than originally estimated. Overruns ultimately totaled $16 million; $5 million was reimbursed by insurance. The extra costs were for cleanup of higher-than-expected levels of DDT on the 11-acre school site. The land previously was occupied by a county mosquito-control unit, and excavated dirt was so polluted that it had to be hauled to a Canadian landfill. Roosevelt residents voiced outrage over ballooning costs. In April 2007, the state education commissioner at the time, Richard Mills, appeared at a public meeting in the district and admitted he had been too slow in stemming the flow of red ink. Ross stepped down two months later and Mills resigned the following year, both under fire. Disillusionment over Roosevelt’s experience has raised questions over how the state might better deal with other districts facing similar problems, such as Hempstead and Wyandanch. “In the bigger picture, there continue to be districts around the state that are struggling,” said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), a longtime state legislator whose constituent area includes Wyandanch. “But I don’t think we’ll ever see the state Education Department proposing taking over a district like Roosevelt again, simply because it wasn’t a very good experience for them.”

States such as Ohio and Michigan are re-examining their takeover policies. One national education leader, Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said that takeovers generally have not made much academic headway. Domenech knows the issue from the inside. In 1995, as a regional BOCES superintendent on Long Island, he headed a state-appointed panel that monitored Roosevelt’s day-to-day operations — a preliminary step toward direct takeover. “Certainly, from my perspective, at the

Domenech knows the issue from the inside. In 1995, as a regional BOCES superintendent on Long Island, he headed a state-appointed panel that monitored Roosevelt’s day-to-day operations — a preliminary step toward direct takeover. “Certainly, from my perspective at the national level, state takeovers are hardly the model to follow,” said Domenech, whose association, based in a Washington, D.C., suburb, represents more than 13,000 educators in the United States.

A study by professor Andrea B. Nikischer of Buffalo State concluded that the education coverage of the city’s only daily newspaper is biased in favor of charter schools and against public schools.

“The study demonstrates that two distinct stories are being told: The first gives readers an uncritical look at charter schools, promoting them as the answer to the perceived failure of the city’s so-called failing public schools, while the second gives an overwhelmingly negative portrayal of Buffalo Public Schools, along with their teachers and union.

“As Buffalo has only one traditional newspaper, and virtually no other mainstream media sources in the county provide detailed coverage of the Buffalo Public Schools or school reform, the power of articles published on these issues is immense,” notes Dr. Nikischer, an assistant professor at Buff State’s Adult Education Department.

“Public school supporters have been critical of the News’s coverage, which has, they believe, unfairly and loudly echoed the agenda of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Buffalo Board of Education majority, and the nationwide school privatization and high-stake testing movements. Now, for the first time, they can point to a qualitative study to back these claims.”

The Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley wrote an editorial explaining the genesis of the testing madness that has gripped the nation for at least 15 years.

First came No Child Left Behind, then Race to the Top, destroying education by a mammoth obsession with test scores.

Andrew Cuomo used federal policy to lash out at teachers’ unions. Of Congress passes s new law, reducing federal punishments, what will the states do with their new flexibility?

The editorial sees some positive sights:

“Newly arrived state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has said she will appoint task forces to review the Common Core standards, New York’s 3-to-8 tests that are now tied to Common Core, and how test results are used to evaluate teachers. Elia has a track record of supporting the standards-testing-evaluations approach to improving education, but seems keenly aware that many New Yorkers have little faith in our testing obsession. She’ll soon realize that a whole new group of parents are now irritated because of the recent Regents exam in algebra, which left even top students scratching their heads.”

Giving the boot to Pearson sent a good signal.

But now there is “the Cuomo problem.”

“Then there’s the Cuomo problem. Our governor is the driving force behind New York’s brutish teacher-evaluation system, which will increasingly rely on test scores to label teachers (even though we won’t use the same scores to evaluate students because the tests are unproven). Many classroom teachers and the parents who appreciate them will remain peeved until the system is changed. Elia will have to confront this problem pronto and figure out a way to circumvent Cuomo’s stubbornness, driven largely by his animus for teachers unions.
We hope that Congress will let states decide how to use test data for their own purposes. But it would be up to New York’s leaders to recognize what even those in Washington see: testing should not drive education policy. Many teachers will spend too much time next year trying to protect their jobs by preparing students for tests. This must not continue.”

The respected Sienna College poll finds that nearly 3/4 of the public disapproves of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education policies.

Cuomo rails against public schools and their teachers. He has no constitutional authority for education but has used the budget process to insert high-stakes tests for teachers. He is a champion for privately managed charter schools. He tried to get vouchers for religious schools, but while failing to do so, won $250 million for them.

The public doesn’t like his anti-public school policies.

For two years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has shredded Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legislative agenda and imposed his own wishes on the city. De Blasio tried to rein in the free-wheeling charter sector, and Cuomo responded by expanding it and forcing the city to give free public space to charters or pay their rent in private space. This year, de Blasio sought permanent extension of mayoral control. He ended up with only one year.

 

Until today, de Blasio has faithfully supported Cuomo, despite the rebuffs and slights. He helped Cuomo get the nomination of the Working Families Party, which threatened to endorse Zephyr Teachout. He gave the premier nominating speech for Cuomo at the State Democratic convention, showing progressive support for a governor who has governed as a conservative.

 

Today, de Blasio finally let loose on Cuomo.

 

 

“Mayor Bill de Blasio, in candid and searing words rarely employed by elected officials of his stature, accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday of stymieing New York City’s legislative goals out of personal pettiness, “game-playing” and a desire for “revenge.”

 

“In an extraordinary interview, Mr. de Blasio, appearing to unburden himself of months’ worth of frustrations, said that Mr. Cuomo — who, like the mayor, is a Democrat — “did not act in the interests” of New Yorkers by blocking measures like reforming rent laws and allowing a long-term extension of the mayor’s ability to control the city’s public schools.

 

“I started a year and a half ago with a hope of a very strong partnership,” Mr. de Blasio said of the governor, whom he has known for two decades. “I have been disappointed at every turn. And these last couple of examples really are beyond the pale…..

 

“I’m not going to be surprised if these statements lead to some attempts at revenge,” Mr. de Blasio said, his voice even. “And we’ll just call them right out. Because we are just not going to play that way.”

 

Teachers know how vindictive and petty Cuomo can be. He fancies himself qualified to dictate how teachers should be evaluated, a subject about which he is totally uninformed.

Update! A few minutes ago, I posted that the budget lifted the charter cap by 100. There are differing reports; this one says there will be 180 new charters.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a deal on the budget that included major education issues.

The budget does not include the “education tax credit” for private and religious schools (vouchers), but does include $250 million for religious schools. That should satisfy Mr. Cuomo’s friends in the religious communities whom he courted.

The deal includes 180 new charter schools, 50 in Néw York City and 130 outside the city. That should please the hedge fund manager who gave millions to the Governor’s re-election campaign, while providng Eva Moskowitz plenty of room to grow her chain.

The deal extends mayoral control in NYC for only one year, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s request to make it permanent. That should remind the Mayor who is in charge.

The deal retains the tax cap on school districts. Regardless of their needs, they won’t be able to raise property taxes by more than 2%, unless they are able to win 60% approval by voters. It may be undemocratic, but it is popular, especially among GOP legislators.

It is amazing how much education policy is now being made during budget negotiations, with no educators in the room.

Carol Burris writes of the terrible consequences that will follow implementation of Governor Cuomo’s teacher evaluation plan.

She urges support for the plan created by seven (of 17) dissident members of the Néw York Board of Regents. Almost all are experienced educators who have carefully reviewed research. Cuomo is not an educator and obviously paid no attention to research.

Two more Regents and the dissidents are a majority.

Lester Young of Brooklyn? Roger Tilles of Long Island?

Superintendent Roy Montesano wrote a powerful letter describing the dangers of Governor Cuomo’s education plan.

He warned that the plan would create a permanent culture of high-stakes over testing; good teachers will be fired, and the judgments of their principals will be disregarded; local control will be eroded (he adds that no one could possibly believe that more control by Albany will improve the performance of the schools of Hastings-on-Hudson); the loss of local control will drag down high-performing districts like his own.

He invites everyone who agrees to sign the petition calling for the repeal of the Cuomo law. The link is included in his letter.

Download the full letter here.

The editorial board of the Albany Times-Union explains the economics behind Governor Cuomo’s proposal for “Education Tax Credits.”

 

It is a voucher plan with a different name, usually offered by rightwing Republicans, not Democrats who claim to be progressive.

 

The rhetoric is about “parental choice,” but the big beneficiaries would be wealthy donors to private and religious schools.

 

For those who support private and parochial education systems, with a true spirit of generosity, we say good for them. But tax revenue shouldn’t be diverted away from state coffers – which is what tax credits end up doing – so more money makes its way to private schools.

 

 

One controversial part of the bill includes access to tax credits –75 percent of any gift up to $1 million – for donors. The pool of money for the tax credits is limited; the dollars would be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. Large corporations with fancy accounting firms can quickly grab the tax credits, and mom-and-pop donors would likely be left wanting.

 

 

Especially for high-income corporations, a tax credit is exponentially more valuable than the current tax deductions available for charitable giving to nonprofit institutions, including private or parochial schools.

 

 

There’s a big difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit: A tax deduction reduces your taxable income, so your taxes are based on a lower amount; a tax credit comes off your tax liability, so it’s cut off the bottom line of what you owe in taxes….

 

 

A similar education tax credit bill failed to pass last year, and the year before, for good reason. It’s a thinly disguised voucher system that’s being touted as “fair” even as the state continues to use out-of-whack funding formulas to provide constitutionally mandated support for public schools, and to squelch on past funding owed to districts across New York.

 

 

Regardless of Cuomo’s best efforts to push “options” to public education and weaken his newest political nemesis, public-school teachers, the state’s Constitutional mandate continues to be the financial support of a public school system, with state funding of specific services provided to private schools. Not the other way around.

 

 

 

 

 

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