second fiddle

Also in Cuomo's budget: restored exams and other ed initiatives

The fight over teacher evaluations occupied much of Gov. Cuomo’s education talk during his budget address today. But his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in April actually contains a host of other education policy proposals.

Here are some details about each of them. Cuomo’s budget proposes to:

  • Make more funding dependent on performance. Cuomo announced a first round of competitive grants for districts that boost test scores and cut costs a year ago and started taking applications in November. Today, he steered another $250 million in competitive grants into that program.
  • Target school aid to high-needs districts. A little more than $300 million of the $800 million in school aid increases will be targeted to the state’s highest-need districts. The Alliance for Quality Education — whose head, Billy Easton, has drawn criticism from Cuomo’s camp for being “a paid lobbyist for the teachers union” — praised the decision but raised concerns about the competitive component of the state aid proposal.
  • Reverse budget cuts to the state’s testing program. Last year, the Board of Regents closed a budget gap by slashing $8 million from the state’s testing program. The cut caused the state to eliminate January Regents exams, which some high school students must pass to graduate. In August, Mayor Bloomberg announced that private donors had pitched in to pay for the tests for one year. Next year, public funds will pay for the tests once again.
  • Speed teacher discipline hearings. Cuomo’s proposal would set time limits for teacher discipline hearings and require districts and local unions to pitch in for the cost of hearings. Right now, the state covers the entire cost of hearings, which Cuomo said gives districts little incentive to move quickly through the hearings. Last May, state education officials said New York City’s 3020-a hearings have become a model for the state since the city and UFT agreed to close the “rubber rooms” for teachers charged with misconduct. But the city wants additional reforms.
  • Continue the Contracts for Excellence program. Since 2007, a pot of state funds has been earmarked for specific purposes, including reducing class size and extending the school day. The earmarks started to satisfy the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and over time have been frozen, scaled back, and frozen again. Critics charge that the city has misused the funds it has already received, but the city says three years of budget cuts would have taken a larger toll on class sizes and other initiatives without the funds. Next year, districts will get the same amount as they did this year, according to Cuomo’s plan.

The budget proposal also outlines a plan to reduce ballooning preschool special education costs and to streamline school bus purchasing practices.

The complete budget briefing is below.

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.