Make a call

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