at the bargaining table

Peek into state budget process shows disagreement on schools

The Times’ City Room blog today gave a peek behind the curtain that has frequently hidden Albany’s budget negotiations from public view — and showed that legislative agreement on major education issues may still be a ways off.

According to an internal memo leaked to the Times that appears to have been prepared by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office after the State Senate and Assembly each passed their own budgets last week, division between the governor and the two houses remains wide on each of the major education policy questions in the budget.

For each policy issue discussed, the 31-page memo lays out the governor’s position, the position of the Senate and the Assembly, and a column for possible compromises. None of the six issues listed related to kindergarten through 12th grade education have a potential compromise given.

And in one prominent case — the question of whether or not to end the state’s current layoff-based seniority system — the memo states that the Assembly’s position is “unknown,” which suggests that there has not yet been much discussion between the three parties on the issue. 

With regard to school aid to districts — which the governor has proposed slashing by nearly $1.5 billion statewide — the memo poses a question: “If Legislature stays within overall dollar threshold, will we defer to their 2-way agreement on how to distribute?”

The Assembly has proposed restoring $200 million of the school aid the governor wants to cut. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked for $200 million more in education funding to New York City alone and is relying on receiving those funds to balance his proposed city budget. If the city does not receive that money, schools are likely to see further cuts.

According to the document, the Assembly also supports Cuomo’s proposal to develop two new Race to the Top-style incentive programs for New York school districts. But Assembly members would change how the program distributes reward money. Instead of devoting $250 million to a competition to boost student performance and another $250 million to districts that find smart ways of cutting costs, the Assembly would increase the funds going to reward performance and decrease the amount dedicated to the efficiency contest. The Senate, meanwhile, rejects the governor’s plan.

Read the full memo obtained by the Times here.

Policy Advice 2011 12 Executive Budget

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.