Tag Archives: legislation

Call Albany regarding Assembly bill A6777 – Parental right to REFUSE standardized tests

Please call your NYS Assemblyman now and ask them to amend assembly bill A6777 to include the requirement that school districts must notify parents of their right to refuse the state standardized tests.

UPDATE 5/28/15 9:15am  Vote did not happen last night and Assembly won’t return to the floor until 11:15am today.  Keep calling!

Parents currently have the right to refuse the state tests but many do not know that.  If they are not informed of the right, having the right codified is not terribly helpful.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s bill has the necessary wording that can be referred to for what needs to be added to A6777.

Without including a provision for parental notification, the Assembly will pass a good bill that many parents will have no idea exists.

In a recent editorial, the Utica Observer-Dispatch called for the Majority’s bill to be amended to require that “school districts inform parents/guardians of their right to refuse these tests and the procedure necessary to do so.”

If your New York State assemblyman is Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, as mine is, his phone number is (518) 455-4436.

When you call, please thank Assemblyman Cahill for being a co-sponsor on A6777 and ask for the bill to be amended to include the requirement that school districts must notify parents of their right to REFUSE the state tests.

Regarding teacher appraisal, junk science of VAM and NYSUT’s raving support of bill A7303

After reading a NYSUT press release today applauding NYS Assembly bill A07303 as APPR Reform legislation, I was compelled to write the following letter to NYSUT President Karen Magee and NYSUT VP Catalino Fortino.

Dear Ms. Magee and Ms. Fortino,
I am a parent in the Kingston City School District who has been fighting against Common Core and High Stakes Testing for the past three years.  I learned of the problems with testing because two brave teachers, who had permission at the time and didn’t know they might regret it later, shared the Niagara PTA resolution against the excessive testing with our PTO.  I have been fighting because of the damage being done to our children, our teachers and our schools – our entire educational system.  I support the teachers within our district and our local union and am known in the district and actually around the county as an advocate for both the children and the teachers.
I know that the excessive testing and the use of standardized test scores for rating is not just bad for children but also for teachers.  That is why I am totally baffled as to why NYSUT is willing to accept the usage of VAM, which is junk science, as even a portion of the teacher appraisal system. 
I have been advocating that we need to get rid of this garbage (usage of VAM as part of APPR) with parents and with our legislators and now I read a press release from NYSUT praising the NYS Assembly for putting forth a bill that just delays the usage of this junk science by a year!  Why are you willing to accept this on behalf of the teachers that you represent?  You have not only failed at protecting your teachers, you have invalidated the work of parents who have been saying that VAM is unacceptable (because we want the BEST for our children and our teachers).
Your press release also states that bill A7303 takes a ‘significant step toward protecting students by reducing inappropriate state testing.’  I can not find anything in the bill that reduces testing for the children.  In fact I do not find any benefits for the children in the bill.  Maybe the teachers won’t be stressed out in the 2015-2016 school year by a new system but the bill doesn’t specify exactly what is going to be done next year (will the current APPR system be used?  do teachers get to skip a year of rating?) so my guess is that teachers will still be teaching to the test.  I also don’t have a whole lot of trust that the test review system will be in place or working effectively by next year but even if it is, using the results of the test for rating is still junk science!  Children will still be faced with taking high-stakes tests unless they REFUSE the tests.  I was so hoping we could actually deal with the REAL problems NOW and not have to go through another cycle of REFUSALS next year.
Why did you stab the parents in the back with your support of this bill that does not help the children and does not really help the individual teachers either?


Jolyn Safron


Local teachers, I must now apologize to you.  The changes in bill A7303 benefit the union but not the children. In fact the changes don’t really benefit you the individual teachers either. You will just get an extra year before you get slammed harder by the junk science of VAM.  However if the union is happy with VAM, then so be it.  I can’t keep fighting the APPR battle if your union isn’t willing to fight it.  I apologize to the teachers who are left hanging in the breeze but take it up with Karen Magee.



How the Senate Republican Majority Leader debate affects education

Regardless of your political persuasion, the current situation regarding the Senate Republican Majority Leader in Albany matters if you are concerned about education in New York State.

Senator Skelos, who has been the Senate Republican Majority Leader, was arrested on federal corruption charges last week Monday May 4, 2015.  He indicated right after his arrest that he would not step down as Majority Leader despite the charges.  Since then as some Senate Republicans including Senator Amedore have called for him to step down, Skelos has gone so far as to threaten that he would resign his Senate seat as well if he is forced to step down.  This would put the Senate Republican majority in danger which of course the Republicans want to avoid.  Read here and here.

Senator Skelos is innocent until proven guilt and will have his day in court, however I do not believe that he can adequately serve any longer as the Senate Majority Leader.  He will be distracted by defending himself and so will everyone around him.  Proper attention will not be placed on the work that the New York State Senate should be accomplishing if he remains as Senate Majority Leader.

The next question is who should become the new Senate Majority Leader and the story just keeps getting crazier!  Both Senator Skelos (who has been charged with a crime) and Governor Cuomo believe that they should have a say in the selection of the next leader – read here.  Their pick is Senator Flanagan who has consistently stood in support of the current education reforms/Common Core in New York State.  I am sure you can see why I am opposed to Senator Flanagan becoming the next Senate Majority Leader.  As Senate education committee chair, he has been stifling any bills that would bring relief from Common Core and if he becomes the Senate Majority Leader, he will just have more power!

A number of the Republican Senators are leaning toward selection of Senator DeFrancisco as the Senate Majority Leader over Senator Flanagan.  Read about Senator DeFrancisco here and here.  I do not know where Senator DeFrancisco stands specifically regarding Common Core but my hope is that he will at least be open to listening to the concerns of parents and teachers, concerns which Senator Flanagan has essentially ignored.

Please contact Senator Amedore and let him know that you want to see a new Senate Majority Leader and that you support the selection of Senator DeFrancisco over Senator Flanagan as the next Senate Majority Leader.

Senator George Amedore  518-455-2350

UPDATE May 11, 2015 11:30pm  I am disappointed to report that Senator Flanagan has been selected as the new Senate Republican Majority Leader – report here and here.

It appears the vote was unanimous based on this letter from Senator LaValle so that means Senator Amedore voted for Senator Flanagan?

LaValle unanimous for Flanagan

Call Albany – NYS Education Committee Chairs Propose Changes

Senator Flanagan and Assemblywoman Nolan have introduced legislation (Senate bill S5124 and Assembly bill A7303) that appears to be an attempt to respond to parent concerns with New York State education reform.

You can read an article about the bills here or read the actual bills linked above.

It seems like a number of issues are still not addressed adequately but maybe this can be made to work?  Trying to be optimistic here.

  • Section 1 and 2:  Looks like APPR is still being based on junk science (VAM) in using the standardized tests to evaluate teachers.  The public has 45 days to comment but I don’t see any indication of expectation of significant change as a result of those comments.  In order for the voice of parents to be ‘heard’, a DIFFERENT method of teacher evaluation has to be determined.  Just giving more time for parents to say that testing is bad but the Regents will move forward to continue using testing is not a solution!  Giving districts longer to come up with how they are going to use the bad methodology doesn’t help either.
  • Section 2:  Schools will have until December 15, 2015 to get their new APPR plan in but they still don’t get any money for the 2015-2016 school year until the plan is in.  By the way, whoever said that the budget didn’t tie money to implementation of Cuomo’s education reforms was sadly misinformed or else lying through their teeth!  Here it is in black and white.
  • Section 3:  A release of ‘some’ of the test questions is NOT going to be satisfactory to parents who are concerned about transparency and bad test questions.  With the awful track record that the tests have had, I don’t think I will trust that the questions released are truly a sampling of all the good or the bad that is on the test. What is to say that the one or two questions not released weren’t the ‘bad’ questions?  NYSED tried to simply ‘do away’ with some bad questions without telling anyone last year – read here and here.
  • Section 5:  More reliance on junk science.  What ‘considerations’ are going to be put in place for teachers who will be hurt by growth scores from students in the ‘problem’ areas (ELL, poverty, prior academic history, disabilities) other than to not use those growth scores?  Seems to me like the growth scores shouldn’t be used for any teachers (see first bullet).
  • Section 6 and 7:  There isn’t already a ‘content review committee’?  Sorry – couldn’t hold back a bit of sarcasm.  What does this committee do if they find problems or if some members of the committee believe there are problems?  Currently various ‘gag orders’ muffle anyone with concerns about the tests.  How will that change just because there is a ‘committee’ to look at the tests?
  • Section 9:  Who is the state education commissioner that is going to be conducting this review of the Common Core standards? Remember we don’t currently have one and honestly until one is appointed, I have no idea if I would trust him/her to oversee such a review or not.
  • Section 9:  How are ‘education stakeholders’ from whom the Commissioner seeks input regarding the review of the Common Core standards going to be selected?  If they are hand-picked as the Regents are doing in who they are inviting to the input session this Thursday May 7 (read here and Commissioner Regs on EdEval – 4-22-15) regarding coming up with what is being done for APPR to meet the June 30 deadline, then this is a no go.  I do not trust that everyone is truly going to be adequately represented at the table.
  • Section 9:  Seems like an awful lot of input has been gathered already via the New York State Assembly (that was then used to create the APPLE Plan and Assembly bill A3656). Will this input be considered? Senator Flanagan also had a number of hearings and although I felt they were more skewed to get what he wanted to hear, some of the concerns of parents/teachers were raised. Again will this input be included by the Commissioner/Regents or continue to be ignored?
  • Section 9:  What do we do with the ‘reforms’ we are stuck with while the review of the Common Core standards is being conducted?

Sorry no optimism left.  Seems to me like there are an awful lot of issues that these bills do NOT deal with adequately.

Things are becoming a bit clearer now:

And despite the unlikelihood that Cuomo will agree to slow implementation of the new evaluations, lawmakers are considering such a change, in part because of the intense pressure they have felt from constituents since passing the unpopular education provisions of the budget.  – Evaluation regs to be adopted without formal comment period capitalnewyork.com  May 1, 2015

The legislators who accepted the budget with Cuomo’s strings attached are now trying to look like they are listening to parents by extending APPR deadlines.  Sorry, this legislation won’t cut it!

This article has sound suggestions for the APPR piece of the problem.  We don’t just need more time to get ready for the new APPR system.  Time is needed for the right people to DESIGN a new APPR system “that would promote classroom instruction and hold teachers accountable.”

As of now, the Regents are required to devise a system that would grade teachers on only two measures: how their students grow on tests; and at least two classroom observations. And that’s it. This absurdly narrow system would not measure most elements of teacher quality or give districts enough information to improve instruction. School districts would be prohibited from considering other evidence of student development, like portfolios of student work, student and parent surveys, or ongoing classroom observations.

The Regents should call on the Legislature to freeze the current system and appoint a group of educators and evaluation experts to recommend the best possible system or, better yet, several models. And talk about setting aside time to pilot them.

Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool, who has pleaded with legislators and Cuomo’s staff to put education before politics, said that parents who boycotted the state tests could focus their frustration by demanding a new evaluation system. “It’s simple,” he said. “Amend these policies now.”

NYSAPE also presented a list of what the NYS legislature and the Board of Regents needs to do to FIX the problems regarding testing, the Common Core Standards and data privacy in a press release on April 23, 2015.

To ensure clarity for all, NYSAPE calls for the following from the NYS Legislature & Board of Regents and will release a more comprehensive list in the near future:

1. A dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th, along with reasserting New York State’s authority to determine the education of its children by calling on the US Congress to reduce testing requirements and return to grade span testing. As former President Bill Clinton said we don’t need annual testing, “I think doing one [test] in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.”

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

3. An independent review of the NYS career and college ready standards to ensure that standards are research based and appropriate. Establish a taskforce including parents, educators, and stakeholders to study the Common Core Learning Standards and make recommendations to adjust and adopt NYS standards.

4. Adhere to a public and transparent process for selecting a new NYS Commissioner of Education.

5. Fix the Cuomo budget legislation debacle by passing legislation that decouples student test scores and restores local board of education control over teacher evaluations.

6. Pass legislation that REQUIRES parental consent to share ANY identifiable student data beyond school district administrators.

We want to restore our classrooms with a well-rounded education and drive testing compliance factory reforms out of our classrooms forever.

Time to get on the phone to Albany and tell our legislators to give us legislation that actually FIXES the problems with testing and Common Core.  Bills S5124 and A7303 do NOT cut the mustard.

Call Albany – Nolan gets Parental Refusal legislation wrong!

New York State Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan has introduced a bill that is supposed to ‘help’ parents who have a right to REFUSE NYS standardized tests but she has gotten it wrong.

Due to party politics and unwillingness to reach across the aisle and partner with ‘Republican’ Assemblyman Jim Tedisco who already has a bill that does what is needed and could pass both the Assembly and the Senate, Assemblywoman Nolan chose to write her own version of a parental refusal bill, bill A6777, and submitted it on April 2 just before the legislature went on vacation!  Now Assemblywoman Nolan is attempting to fast-track the bill but it is a bad bill and does not have adequate support nor a companion bill in the Senate so it will not pass.

Nolan’s bill A6777 does state that parents have the right to REFUSE the state tests and there will be no consequences to the child/parent/school for refusal but read this part in the ‘justification’

This legislation reaffirms parents’ discretion and authority to exempt their children from standardized assessments but it neither supports nor opposes such exemption.

What is that supposed to mean?  It sure sounds wishy-washy to me.  More importantly, A6777 does NOT require that districts inform parents of their RIGHT to REFUSE so many parents will be left in the dark.  Click here for a comparison of the two bills.

Call Assemblywoman Nolan and tell her that she needs to support Jim Tedisco’s Common Core Parental Refusal Act (A6025) and move A6025 out of the education committee for a vote on the Assembly floor.  Click here for a comparison of the two bills.

Also call our Ulster County Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and tell him that he needs to push his fellow assemblymembers to support the Common Core Parental Refusal Act.  Assemblyman Cahill stood for parents and voted against the education portion of the budget when few other legislators did so.  Now he needs to show us that he really is standing for us and he needs to exert his considerable influence and get the Assembly to pass the Common Core Parental Refusal Act.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (518) 455-4436

Education Chair Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (518) 455-4851

Common Core Parental Refusal Act petition

This legislation is not going to help parents this year but if we are still stuck with these bad standardized tests next year, I do not want to have to be wondering about whether all parents know about their right to refuse and what consequences there ‘might’ be due to refusing the tests next year.

Your voice matters



Silencing New York parents and teachers? Reject Senate bill S4709

In addition to the ongoing disrespect for parents that is highlighted in this Curmudgucation post, there is a bad piece of legislation that Mr. Greene discusses. Senate bill S4709-2015, introduced by Senator Jack Martin, relates to annual professional performance review (APPR) plans submitted by the highest performing ten percent of school districts.

The commissioner will determine who the highest performing ten percent of school districts are and since our state is so in love with the tests, one can only assume the ten percent will be determined at least in part by test scores. So essentially the school districts who have the most money, since test scores generally correlate to income of the family, get a by on whatever new teacher appraisal system is developed.

I can come up with many reasons why this legislation is bad. However the most important point seems to me to be that the new annual professional performance review plan is expected to be BAD or why would we need to have a way for the ‘best’ school districts to escape it?

Rather than draft a ‘law of escape’, we need to create an annual professional performance review plan that is fair for all teachers and all school districts!

The only possible reason for a law such as S4709 that I can come up with is to silence a group of parents as Mr. Greene hypothesizes.

Contact your New York State legislators and tell them to reject S4709!

Federal bill to reduce testing – H. R. 452 “Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act”

I am very proud to see this press conference in support of legislation sponsored by our own U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson – H.R. 452 – Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, Comsewogue School Superintendent DrJoe Rella, NYS Assemblyman Dean Murray, and Patchogue-Medford School Superintendent Michael Hynes – Joint press conference to discuss House Bill H. R. 452 the “Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act” which Rep.Chris Gibson has sponsored and Lee Zeldin has co-sponsored. If Congress passes it, this legislation would roll back testing requirements to pre-NCLB levels.

Congressman Zeldin was in Albany as a senator last year but felt compelled to run for the U.S. Congress and is now in Washington D.C. continuing to fight for the children.

Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella asks “How are the children?  Are all of them well?”  Unfortunately, the answer right now is “No”.

If you are in the 19th Congressional district, please contact Congressman Gibson to thank him for sponsoring this legislation.  If you are in another congressional district, demand that your congressman support this legislation so we can get back to educating our kids and not this ridiculous over-testing!  There are currently only 4 New York congressman co-sponsoring this legislation (Katko, Reed, Zeldin and Collins).


H.R. 452 summary:

Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act

Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to eliminate the requirement that students be tested against state academic content and achievement standards in mathematics and reading or language arts in each of grades three through eight.

Requires, instead, that those tests be administered at least once during: (1) grades 3 through 5, (2) grades 6 through 9, and
(3) grades 10 through 12.

Albany has failed parents/students with the state budget – they must now pass CC Parental Refusal Act!

Now that testing is being cemented even more into the fabric of education thanks to Governor Cuomo’s bad education reforms that were approved by the New York State assembly and senate on Tuesday March 31, 2015, it is even more vital that parents know they have the RIGHT to REFUSE the state tests and that they can do so without punishment for the student, teacher or school.

We can not blame the passage of these bad education policies on a specific political party as it was the democrats who passed the education policy in the assembly (passed 92 to 54) and the republicans who passed it in the senate (passed 36 to 26).  It makes absolutely no sense at all that anyone would pass this junk but even weirder that one party passed it in one house and the other party in the other house.  Regardless, the Common Core Parental Refusal Act has bi-partisan support in both the senate and the assembly, so the rest of the legislators who say they are concerned about high-stakes testing need to get on board to get this legislation passed!

NYS Senate 2015 Budget YES votes

NYS Assembly 2015 Budget YES votes

Contact your assembly member and senator first thing in the morning and tell them since they failed us with the budget*, we HAVE to have this legislation passed immediately.

The state tests are only 2 weeks away!!!

*Ulster County residents take note – if you live in Assemblyman Peter Lopez’s district or Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney’s district, they did NOT fail us.  They voted against the education portions of the budget!  Please thank them when you call.  UPDATE 4/1/15 – Assemblyman Kevin Cahill also voted No on behalf of our children.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the petition supporting the Common Core Parental Refusal Act.

Common Core Parental Refusal Act petition

Urgent! Call Albany NOW 3/31/15 to protect our children from testing tied to the budget!

If the information presented by the Cuomo official in this article as of 10pm Monday March 30 (here and at the end of this post) is accurate, this is very bad news for the children of New York.

Not only will the children continue to be tested in order to determine whether their teachers get to keep their jobs or not, a second test might be added to assist with this determination. BUT the extra test will not be mandated by NYSED so if a district decides to use it, the extra testing is on the district NOT NYSED (thanks a lot Governor Cuomo and legislators!) Regardless of how well the teacher does on the observation portion of the evaluation, if their students do not show growth based on the test scores, the teacher can NOT receive an effective or highly effective rating. Not in this article but from earlier reports (here and here), if teachers are rated ineffective for two or three years in a row, they can be fired (within 90 days unless they can justify not being fired for two years of ineffective ratings; mandatory firing in 30 days for three years of ineffective ratings unless the teacher can prove fraud).  That sounds like an awful lot of pressure to put on a child’s test score to me!

Have the people in power in Albany been listening that these tests are developmentally inappropriate; that they cause harm to children; that they are statistically invalid for evaluating teachers; that there are so many problems with these tests that they should NOT be used in any way shape or form (read here for a sampling if you are not familiar with the various testing issues) let alone be the gatekeeper on whether a teacher gets to keep their job?

Apparently the education portion of the budget bill is not yet available (as of 10pm Monday) so we do not know what the exact language is in the bill. Senator Amedore’s office reminded me of this when I spoke to them at 9pm tonight. However Governor Cuomo is willing to waive the three-day waiting period requirement so the budget bill can be passed on time, therefore once the bill hits the legislator’s hands, I expect that it will be voted on very quickly so we will not have the luxury of waiting to see what the bill actually says and then leisurely voicing concerns.

Several of the New York State senators’ offices have been insisting that school aid will not be linked to any of the education reforms but as of the publishing of this article at 7:30pm this evening Monday March 30, 2015, Ken Wagner, an official from NYSED is stating that the aid is indeed linked.

School funding and teacher evaluations are linked after all, a top official with the state education department said late Monday.
I regret the inconvenience this will cause to our legislators’ aides but the phones need to be ringing off the hooks so that our senators and assembly members know that inclusion of any of these items in the budget will be considered by parents as a failure to support what we want to see for the education of our children:
  • increased reliance on testing
  • setting teacher evaluations as part of the budget process
  • receivership for schools – I have not focused on this due to the testing concerns but it is a total destruction of local school control
  • anything tying school aid to Cuomo’s education reforms

Please call both your senator and your assembly member as well as the speaker of the house Assemblyman Heastie and senate majority leader Senator Skelos.  Senator Amedore and Assemblyman Cahill represent the majority of families in the Kingston City School District.

Senator George Amedore (518) 455-2350

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (518) 455-4436

Budget hook

Regarding school funding, it looks like neither the senate or the assembly stuck to their guns and we will not get the $1.8 billion that the assembly was pushing for or the $1.9 billion that the senate put forward.  Reports seem to be settling around $1.3 or $1.4 billion with Senator Skelos being quoted here that schools would get half of the GEA back this year and the rest next year.  Senator Amedore also issued a statement regarding elimination of more than 50% of the GEA.  Please thank him for supporting elimination of the GEA when you call.

Schools also need the Foundation Aid formula to be updated and used each year because this is what will give the school districts a reliable revenue that they can count on from year to year.  Not sure what portion of the school aid will be considered foundation aid.


ALBANY—The final plan for a new statewide teacher evaluation system will require observations by an “independent” evaluator, a Cuomo administration official said during a briefing with reporters late Monday.
It’s hard to say definitively what will be in the bill, since it hasn’t been introduced, and leaders of the State Senate and Assembly did not immediately return a request for confirmation that they have agreed on specifics of the deal. But the administration official, speaking on background, presented the plan in great detail, some of which Capital has already reported, arguing the deal was solid.
According to the briefing, the evaluation system will have two components: observations and student performance on state tests.
There will be two required observations, from a teacher’s principal or administrator and an “independent” evaluator, who could be a principal, administrator or “highly effective” teacher from another school or district. As Cuomo originally proposed, a college professor or retired educator could also serve as the independent evaluator. A peer observation will be optional.
Cuomo official lays out surplus plan
Assembly revenue debate turns back to yacht tax
State to spend $400 M. on rural upstate health systems
The official argued against critics’ characterization of the “independent” evaluator as an unfunded mandate. If schools or districts agree to swap evaluators, neither would have to pay for the other’s services, the official said.
Student growth on state-administered, Common Core-aligned English and math exams in third through eighth grades and Regents exams in high school will be required components for the evaluation system.
Districts and local unions may choose to include an additional test, which would be designated by the State Education Department. Contrary to how the extra test was described before, it would not have to be designed by the state, which is a costly and time-consuming process.
The additional exam would address concerns about teachers being rated based on a student’s work on one day or over one test-administration period, the administration official said. But the test would be optional, so parents wouldn’t be able to blame the state for additional testing. the official said.
While the State Education Department will be charged with determining how performance indicators translate to “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” or “highly effective” ratings, the budget will include certain rules that “trump” the outcome of the department’s calculation.
For example, if teachers are evaluated using only the traditional state exam and are rated “ineffective” based on student performance on that exam, they may not be rated “effective” overall; they may only be rated “ineffective” or “developing.” For teachers at districts that opt to use two tests, if teachers’ rating based on both tests combined is “ineffective,” they must be rated “ineffective” overall.
If teachers are “ineffective” based on observations, they can’t be “effective” or higher overall.
The budget will also include new requirements for continuing education or professional development. While teachers are already required to complete 100 hours of professional development annually, there will be stricter state guidelines for what constitutes professional development. Teachers will have to complete the state-approved development in order to retain their certification.
The budget will also include $20,000 bonuses for high-performing teachers.

Details begin to emerge on new teacher evaluation system capitalnewyork.com 10:07pm March 30, 2015

Urgent! Call Albany today about school funding in the state budget!

Budget negotiations are coming down to the wire in Albany and school aid/how our kids will be educated hangs in the balance.

Please call your legislators today to state the following points:

  1. Stop holding our school funding hostage for the Governor’s bad plan on testing and teacher evaluation.  Pass the budget without ANY of the education reforms Governor Cuomo is trying to shove through.  Education reform needs to be dealt with separate from the budget.
  2. The Senate must increase school funding to at least the $1.8 billion in the Assembly version of the budget and the budget needs to use foundation aid to prioritize high needs schools along with GEA reductions.

Senator George Amedore (518) 455-2350

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (518) 455-4436

Your voice matters

Here is more information pertaining to the points above if you have time to read the details before you make your phone calls.

Current news on the street is that Senator Skelos is considering a deal with Governor Cuomo that would delay any increase in school aid to June 2015 when an appointed commission would unilaterally determine the final teacher evaluation system.

Although no one really has details, you can read about the possible teacher evaluation commission here and here.

I personally am not in favor of a commission as being discussed even if it is decoupled from the budget.  I do not believe it would adequately represent the stakeholders nor am I convinced that the legislature/Governor Cuomo are the appropriate people to determine how teachers are evaluated even if the legislature gets to vote on the results of the commission and it is not clear if the legislature would vote on the results or not.  I have included a letter I sent to Senator Skelos below.

While the Senate Republican budget is being reported as putting $1.9 billion in for education, it really only works out to $1.4 billion according to Alliance for Quality Education.  The Senate needs to come up to at least the $1.8 billion that the NYS Assembly has in their budget.  In fact the Board of Regents asked for $2 billion and AQE says $2.2 billion is needed but I do not expect we will get to those numbers since the Governor only proposed $1 billion IF the legislature went along with his reforms and the assembly is only proposing $1.8 billion.

I am asking that you call Senator Skelos’ (majority chair) and Senator Flanagan’s offices as well as your local legislators to let them know your opinion on the creation of the teacher evaluation commission and the possibility of school funding being tied to it.

Senator Skelos (518) 455-3171

Senator Flanagan (518) 455-2071

I have contacted the three Senate offices regarding the teacher evaluation commission and was told the following that you can use to inform your comments as you make your calls:

  • Senator Amedore’s office – the commission is being discussed but they are confident that it will not be tied to school aid/the budget and pointed to a statement by Senator Flanagan in this article when I asked for public support of Senator Amedore’s confidence in the Republican coalition.
  • Senator Skelos’ office – on Wednesday the aide would not report where the Senator stood on private negotiations with the Governor but would add my zipcode to the list who had called about the commission
  • Senator Flanagan’s office – the aide told me that the commission has been discussed but stated emphatically that Senator Flanagan does not support anything that will delay school aid

Even if it seems that the legislators are supporting your wishes regarding the education aspects of the budget, please make these phone calls.  With the ongoing negotiations, things are changing moment-by-moment and the legislators need to be reminded that they are serving at our pleasure and we are watching and will indeed hold them accountable.


I sent this email on Tuesday March 24, 2015 before the report came out that they might actually delay the funding.

Dear Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Senate Education Committee Chair Flanagan,
I have just read that Senate Republicans might be close to working out a deal with Governor Cuomo regarding the education reform agenda including in the budget.  http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/03/senate-republicans-close-with-cuomo-on-education-reform/
I hope that this means the education reform agenda has been decoupled from the budget and will be dealt with separately as it should be.  I am very dissatisfied with this behind-closed-doors dealings regarding the education of our children.
The creation of a commission to develop teacher evaluation criteria is concerning to me as well.  Legislators and the governor should not be determining how to evaluate teachers, particularly without educators involved in the process, and it definitely should NOT be done in a rush or as part of the budget process.
I want my student’s teachers evaluated by local educators who know them and the job they do and know how to help them improve IF there are areas where they need to improve NOT by people who assume that they are doing a pathetic job and try to figure out how to fire them!  I also do not want my student’s state test scores used as any part of a teacher’s personal evaluation and just to make that TOTALLY CLEAR, I will be REFUSING the tests until they are no longer used as part of a teacher’s personal evaluation.  I am not a teacher nor am I funded in any way by a union so please do not say that unions and teachers are the only ones against using standardized test scores as part of the teacher appraisal system.  I am simply a parent who wants the best education for the children of New York and I will fight until we arrive at that place in this state.
The entire education reform agenda needs to be dealt with openly and with all stakeholders represented fairly and honestly at the table (students, parents, teachers, administrators, legislators, NYSED, governor, anyone else who is a player/has a stake?) not just the teacher evaluation criterion.  Stop this behind-closed-doors dealing about the education reform!  Tell Governor Cuomo that we will NOT accept his ‘education reform’ as part of the budget.  Pass the budget with the educational funding that we need for our schools and then lets get down to open and honest discussions about what we need to do to get rid of the mess that has been made in New York State by all this ‘education reform’.
If a commission is needed, let me suggestion the Blue Ribbon Commission that is part of the Apple Plan presented by the New York State Republican Assembly in bill A3656.
Jolyn Safron