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The Campaign for Educational Equity today attacked Andrew Cuomo's education "reform" plan. That plan, if enacted, would continue to deprive New York's poorest school districts of equitable funding and adequate resources needed to provide students with a sound basic education--a right guaranteed by the New York Constitution.

The Campaign is headed by Michael Rebell, a professor at Columbia Teachers College and the attorney who spearheaded the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation. In that case, New York's highest court found that the State was illegally underfunding New York City schools. Mr. Rebell is a highly respected voice in New York. He has fought for fair funding for the State's neediest students for more than two decades.

The Campaign went so far as to call Cuomo's plan unconstitutional. Here is the Campaign's full statement:

Governor Cuomo’s Education Budget Proposals Ignore Children’s Needs and Violate the Constitution

In the budget message he delivered last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed to increase state aid to education by $1.1 billion for 2015-16-but only if the legislature adopts his highly controversial package of education “reforms.” His reform agenda centers on tax credits for contributions to private schools, changes to the charter-school cap, and a significant revision of the teacher-evaluation law. If these changes are not adopted, the governor will ask the legislature to increase funding by only $377 million, an amount that will barely cover legally required increases in “expense-based aids,” such as transportation and building aid, that mostly go to retroactive payments for services delivered and facilities built in the past. In essence, if the governor does not get his desired education-policy changes, New York State’s students will receive virtually no increase in state aid and, given inflation and other mandatory cost increases, the level of educational services, which in many school districts is already highly inadequate,[1] will take an additional hit.

Tying State School Aid to Policy Change Violates Students’ Rights

Making state funding for a sound basic education contingent on specific education policies, good or bad, infringes New York students’ educational rights. The New York Court of Appeals held in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) v. State of New York [2] that state aid for education must be calibrated to student need and must be based on “the actual cost” of providing all students the opportunity for a sound basic education. If $1.1 billion is the budget increase that the governor has decided is needed to provide a sound basic education, then a threat to provide less than that amount is in direct contravention of Article XI § 1 of the state constitution and of the governor’s oath to uphold the constitution.

School-Aid Amount Is Inadequate and Not Based on Student Need

Even more problematic is that Governor Cuomo has ignored the Court of Appeals’ expectation that the state determine the actual cost of a sound basic education through an objective analysis of students’ needs. The figures the governor has put forward are not grounded in any such analysis. Instead, they come from a purely budgetary and political calculation that ignores existing resource inadequacies and the additional costs of implementing the new requirements of such policies as Common Core standards, Response to Intervention (RTI), the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), new pathways to high school graduation, and full-day universal prekindergarten.

The New York State Board of Regents recently recommended an increase in state aid of approximately $2 billion for 2015-16. This recommendation was based on a careful consideration of student needs and of the cost of some of the major new programs listed above, as well increased support for English language learners, coverage for enrollment increases, and other educational needs. Even with a $2 billion increase, the Regents acknowledge, funding would not reach a constitutionally compliant level. The foundation-aid formula that the legislature adopted in 2007 in response to the CFE litigation, and based on an extensive cost study undertaken by the state education department, calls for an increase in state aid of approximately $5.6 billion. This is the amount needed to provide students access to a sufficient number of qualified teachers; reasonable class sizes; up-to-date textbooks and technology; services and supports for students who are academically below grade level, students with disabilities, and English language learners; and all of the other elements of a sound basic education as defined by the courts and as calculated by the state itself in accordance with the statutory foundation-aid formula.

Tax Credit Plan Is Unconstitutional

The governor’s neglect of the students’ educational rights under the state constitution does not end with the inadequate funding increase. One of the so-called “reforms” to which the governor would hold state aid hostage is a plan that would provide tax credits of 75% of amounts up to $1 million for donations to “school improvement organizations, local education funds and educational scholarship organizations.” At a time when our public schools are severely underfunded, it is simply shameful for the governor to call for siphoning public tax money off to private schools and other entities favored by wealthy individuals. Even though some of these funds can also be given to public schools, the notion that individual donors can choose the schools that will receive extra money, instead of determining, through proper public procedures, where available tax revenues should best be directed, also violates constitutional precepts.

Universal Full-Day Pre-K Has Been Shortchanged

Last year, prodded by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s insistence on full-day prekindergarten for all four year olds in New York City, the governor initiated a plan to provide full-day pre-K to all four year olds in the state within five years. He committed $1.5 billion to this project over the five-year period, including a $340 million allocation in the current year’s budget, $300 million of which was earmarked for New York City. To expand the program and ensure its quality in its second year and beyond, careful attention to its programmatic needs and planning to ensure sustained and stable financing are essential.[3] For 2015-16, the state’s plans should include an increase of at least $150 million for districts outside New York City to expand access to full-day pre-K for 15,000 more children; an additional $100 million to ensure high-quality pre-K for students in New York City; a shift to a periodic, predictable schedule for cost reimbursements to school districts; and a requirement that all community programs be under one manageable supervisory umbrella. The governor’s proposal ignores these needs and maintains funding for four year olds at last year’s level (plus a $25 million federal grant). To his credit, the governor does propose a $25 million appropriation for new full-day programs for three year olds.

There are other positive proposals in the governor’s education package, like creating a teacher-residency program and supporting expansion of the master teacher and P-Tech programs. However, the governor’s budget allocates relatively small amounts ($39 million) to these worthwhile initiatives.

A broad-based group of parents and educational organizations from around the state is challenging the governor’s unconstitutional approach to school funding in New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights (NYSER) v. State of New York [4], a lawsuit filed in February 2014. Since it will take some time for the Court of Appeals to issue a final ruling in this case, the members of the state legislature should live up to their constitutional obligations, reject the governor’s illegal and inadequate approach to funding, and ensure that the state’s education-finance system provides an opportunity for a sound basic education to all students.

__________________

[1] For a detailed discussion of the extent to which students in high-need schools throughout the state are being deprived of constitutionally mandated educational services, see Michael A. Rebell, Jessica R. Wolff, and Joseph R. Rogers, Jr., Deficient Resources: An Analysis of the Availability of Basic Educational Resources in High Needs Schools in Eight New York State School Districts (Campaign for Educational Equity, 2012.)

[2] 100 N.Y. 2d 893 (2003).

[3] The Campaign for Educational Equity and the Center for Children’s Initiatives recently issued a report that specifies the programmatic improvements and funding increases that are needed to achieve high-quality pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds in the State of New York over an eight-year period.

[4] For information regarding the NYSER litigation, see www.nyser.org.

Views expressed by the Campaign for Educational Equity or its staff do not necessarily reflect the views of Teachers College.

 

So far, schools boards, superintendents, parent groups, teachers unions and educational experts have come out against various aspects of Cuomo's plan, which has been endorsed by his hedge fund and Wall Street campaign donors. Now the Campaign for Educational Equity has added a powerful, respected voice to the opposition.

When Cuomo took office he promised to make New York the progressive capital of the nation. Instead, he has grown increasingly close to Wall Street donors who want to privatize our public schools. As the Campaign notes, the proposed tax credit plan would especially benefit the wealthy at the expense of public schools. The tax credit plan, as I noted in a previous diary, comes straight out of the ALEC's far right playbook.

Next to the US Attorney's ongoing investigation of corruption at the highest levels of NY state government, the fight over Cuomo's Wall Street endorsed plan for public education will likely be the biggest issue in this Legislative session. The outcome will no doubt have enormous impact for New York's public school students, and for Cuomo's political future.

Discuss

Andrew Cuomo's war on public schools, teachers and their unions is drawing fire from school boards and teachers, and now is being hit by political allies and policy wonks from the left and right.

Today State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for an end to the demonization of teachers. Her reference to Cuomo was implicit but clear:

http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/...

Also today, Lori Bezalhzer, President of the Edward W. Haven Foundation, blasted Cuomo's tax credit plan, which would drain money from the public schools and which comes straight out of the ALEC playbook:

http://tablet.olivesoftware.com/...

Why would a man who claims to be a progressive do the bidding of ALEC?

And, today,  Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right leaning think tank, criticized Cuomo's proposal to base 50% of teacher evaluations on standardized state tests, noting that in the rest of the country the trend is exactly the opposite:

http://ny.chalkbeat.org/...

Corruption comes in all forms. Cuomo got lots of campaign dollars from billionaires who have a vested interest in privatizing public and monetizing public schools. He is livid that the teachers' union did not endorse him for reelection. Rewarding his donors and punishing school teachers who had the temerity to stand up to him seem to be the twin drivers of his destructive agenda.

Cuomo has a "D" after his name, but he is no progressive. Schoolyard bully is more like it.

Discuss

Andrew Cuomo's war on public schools, teachers and their unions is drawing fire from school boards and teachers, and now is being hit by political allies and policy wonks from the left and right.

Today State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for an end to the demonization of teachers. Her reference to Cuomo was implicit but clear:

http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/...

Also today, Lori Bezalhzer, President of the Edward W. Haven Foundation, blasted Cuomo's tax credit plan, which would drain money from the public schools and which comes straight out of the ALEC playbook:

http://tablet.olivesoftware.com/...

Why would a man who claims to be a progressive do the bidding of ALEC?

And, today,  Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right leaning think tank, criticized Cuomo's proposal to base 50% of teacher evaluations on standardized state tests, noting that in the rest of the country the trend is exactly the opposite:

http://ny.chalkbeat.org/...

Corruption comes in all forms. Cuomo got lots of campaign dollars from billionaires who have a vested interest in privatizing public and monetizing public schools. He is livid that the teachers' union did not endorse him for reelection. Rewarding his donors and punishing school teachers who had the temerity to stand up to him seem to be the twin drivers of his destructive agenda.

Cuomo has a "D" after his name, but he is no progressive. Schoolyard bully is more like it.

Discuss

Mon Jan 26, 2015 at 03:53 PM PST

Cuomo War on Public Education

by unionblue

When he took office, Andew Cuomo said he would make New York the progressive capital of the nation. But he has gotten in bed with billionaires and hedge funders who have a vested interest in privatizing public education.

Since Cuomo took office, he has pressed regressive tax policies and school funding cuts, which have hurt low wealth districts the most. These districts serve poor and minority students. Cuomo also is pushing charter schools and vouchers, straight out of the Right wing playbook.

His backers' agenda is blocked by parents, school boards, teachers and, of course, the teachers' union, which failed to endorse his reelection.

So, Cuomo is now in full out attack on public schools, teachers, and the teachers' union. The attack is well described by Dr. Bill Cala, Superintendent of the Fairport Central School District, a suburban district near Rochester. His comments are well worth a read:

https://word-view.officeapps.live.com/...
Here is an excerpt:

"This week’s State of the State address by Governor Cuomo was what most of us expected.  It was an all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control.  It appears that breaking teachers is his solution to poverty, income inequality and inadequate school funding.

Let’s be clear that the governor’s agenda has nothing to do with what is good for kids.  Far from it.  It is what is good for his financial supporters: the corporations who are making billions of dollars on the tests, the texts, the technology, the corporate professional development and the data collection, retrieval and distribution.  
As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Waltons, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed."

Yes, 1%ers are feasting at the table of greed and fake Democrat Andrew Cuomo is feeding them.

Superintendents, school boards, parents, teachers and students are rallying to stop him. It won't be easy, because Cuomo has big money behind him. Let's support our public schools and let's expose Cuomo for the plutocrat he is.

Discuss

Wed Dec 31, 2014 at 01:13 PM PST

Cuomo War on Teachers 2015

by unionblue

I don't write often but when a Democratic Governor acts like Scott Walker, well, it's time to speak up.

It's no secret that Andrew Cuomo took a lot of campaign cash from the corporate education education lobby: Rich folks who stand to get even richer by degrading public education and privatizing. It's also no secret that Cuomo is a vindictive man, who is miffed that organized labor denied him an endorsement this year.

Today Cuomo held forth on how hard it is to fire tenured teachers, noting that it takes years to do so and that even teachers found guilty of sexually abusing children can't be removed from the classroom. You can read his comments here:

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/...

These are the same fairy tales Campbell Brown tells over and over, to an uninquisitive media that dutifully report it as truth.

The fact is that under reforms negotiated in good faith with New York's teachers unions in 2008, 2010 and 2012, none of what Cuomo is saying is even close to the truth. Statistics released by the State Education Department in April show that under these reforms, charges against tenured teachers are resolved, on average, in less than 200 days from the day the charge is filed if there is a full hearing. Most cases settle in a much shorter time, often by the resignation or retirement of the teacher. I will try to provide a link in a later diary, but the numbers are publicly available from SED. And, teachers found guilty of sexually abusing kids lose their jobs automatically, without a hearing.

Why teachers should not have the right to a fair, due process hearing if they are charged  with misconduct or incompetence is beyond me. But if Cuomo really has a good faith belief that teacher tenure needs to be weakened even further, and if he really has any respect for New York's teachers, why does he not have the decency to make his case with telling such gross, obvious and easily disprovable lies?

I care about public education, and I care about the rights of working people, teachers included. As a lifelong Democrat, it breaks my heart to see a man like Cuomo, who holds the same office once held by FDR, doing so much damage to both. I hope in the coming year he will at least stop the misrepresentation. And I hope the Democratic Party will remember what it once was-- the party that fights for the little guy.

I apologize for a diary short on links...I am kind of new to this and will try to supply more in follow up entries.

Discuss

Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 08:52 AM PDT

Dumping Walmart

by unionblue

For those of you who have followed Walmart's abuse of workers, this is some good news: foreign pension funds are divesting Walmart stock because of its anti-worker anti-union policies. Here is the link:

http://www.uniglobalunion.org/...

Of course, we can all do our part by simply not shopping there.

Discuss

Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 08:26 AM PST

NYT on Bus Drivers' Strike

by unionblue

Disappointing NYT editorial on bus strike. No job security for drivers; let the market decide!

Strange that Americans should not be able to earn job or retirement security. And with union busters like Bloomberg running the show, the "market" will turn us into Bangladesh.

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