first draft

Pre-K, teacher quality top education agenda in Cuomo's budget

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his budget address to issue a teacher evaluations ultimatum heard around the state.

This year, Cuomo took that ultimatum and raised it, telling districts that he would again tie their increases in school aid to having new teacher evaluation systems on the books but that he would also reward some of their highest-rated teachers.

Cuomo also set new funding for full-day pre-kindergarten in high-need school districts, early college programs to help high school students accelerate, and extended day programs that he introduced in his State of the State address earlier this month. And he announced that the state would require teachers to clear a new hurdle, a “bar exam,” before being certified to work in New York State.

We’ll have more about Cuomo’s education budget proposals later today, including his answers to three open questions about how he would fund schools. For now, here’s the education section of his budget highlights sheet:

The 2013-14 Executive Budget reflects a continued commitment to supporting improved student outcomes, sustainable cost growth, and equitable distribution of aid. It builds on the foundational work of prior years, and begins the implementation of key recommendations of the New NY Education Reform Commission. The total year-to-year increase in aid for education is $889 million, or 4.4 percent.

  • Full-Day Pre-kindergarten Program: The Executive Budget provides $25 million to support a full-day pre-kindergarten program targeted toward higher need students in lower wealth school districts via a competitive process.
  • Extended Learning Time: In order to provide increased learning opportunities, $20 million will be prioritized to support high-quality extended school day or extended school year programs, with academically enriched programming. Schools that apply to participate in the program must agree to expand learning time by 25 percent. The grant will cover the full cost of expanding learning time for students.
  • Community Schools: The Executive Budget supports an innovative program designed to transform schools into community hubs that integrate social, health and other services, as well as after-school programming to support students and their families.
  • Reward High-Performing Teachers: The Executive Budget provides $11 million to offer $15,000 in annual stipends for four years to the most effective teachers, beginning with math and science teachers.
  • Early College High School Programs: The Executive Budget provides $4 million in new state funding, bringing the state’s total investment in Early College High School programs to $6 million, to improve college access and success.
  • Bar Exam for Teachers: To ensure the best and brightest are teaching our children, the State Education Department will increase the standards for teacher certification to require passage of a “bar exam,” in addition to longer, more intensive and high-quality student-teaching experience in a school setting.
  • Target School Aid Increases to High-Need School Districts: The Executive Budget provides a $611 million increase in School Aid. High-need school districts will receive 75 percent of the 2013-14 allocated increase and 69 percent of total School Aid. The aid includes $272 million for general support, $289 million for increased reimbursement in expense-based aid programs, and $50 million for a new round of competitive grants.
  • Provide Fiscal Stabilization Funding for School Districts in the 2013-14 School Year: In recognition of extraordinary increases in fixed costs, including pension contributions, the Executive Budget provides $203 million in one-time financial relief to school districts.
  • Maintain the Commitment to Teacher Evaluation Reform: The Executive Budget will continue to link increases in State Aid to compliance with the teacher evaluation system to ensure implementation and accountability for improving student performance. School districts will not be eligible for aid increases unless they have fully implemented the teacher evaluation process for the 2013-14 school year by September 1, 2013.

home sweet home

‘Finally! Something useful’ or a dangerous mistake? Detroiters respond to city’s housing deal for teachers

PHOTO: Detroit Land Bank Authority
This home on Harvard Road was up for auction the week after Detroit announced a half-off-on-city-owned housing deal for teachers.

Friday’s announcement that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter, or parochial schools — will get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority stirred a lot of discussion.

Some of our commenters on Facebook had high hopes for the deal:

But one commenter wondered if it’s the city of Detroit that’s actually getting the best deal, not the employees — or other people seeking to buy homes in the city:

And others argued that people who already live in Detroit won’t benefit from this deal:

Still, some readers appear to be ready to move — and have even picked homes to bid on (though not necessarily from the Land Bank Authority)!

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.