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New York

In Albany, teachers unions' lobbying power remains unmatched

Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for Alliance for Quality Education, a group that co-hosts Lobby Day with NYSUT, speaks in Albany on Tuesday.Teachers from across the state began descending on Albany Tuesday for a series of high-profile meetings with lawmakers, a small but significant part of their unions’ overall lobbying strategies. A high school marching band helped start off the New York State United Teachers’ lobby day in the late morning, leading hundreds bused in from around the state on a parade outside the state Capitol building. At a rally, the crowd of teachers, students, and community organizers asked for more school funding and called Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget, which increases state aid by 4.4 percent, “bananas” because it wasn’t enough. Today’s message will feature a different union — the city’s United Federation of Teachers — with different budget priorities and a more powerful audience. The UFT wants money for teacher training centers, community schools, and child care, and it has reserved speaking slots at its rally for the legislature’s three leaders: Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Senate Republican Dean Skelos and Senate Democrat Jeff Klein. The two lobby days, which include union members and their supporters, are among the most visible manifestations of the unions’ annual behind-the-scenes effort to influence how state policies are shaped and money is spent. Each year, New York’s teacher unions spend millions to organize large rallies, launch statewide advertising campaigns and pay teams of staff lobbyists to work directly with elected officials on specific legislation.
New York

With focus on teacher data deal, other education bills moved too

New York

Principals union chief urges state to reject city's turnaround bid

The city's bid to "turn around" 33 struggling schools is politically motivated and should be quashed, according to the head of the city's principals union. The city is days away from submitting a formal request for State Education Commissioner John King to release millions of dollars in federal funding for the 33 schools even though the city has not yet negotiated new evaluations with the teachers union. Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, sent a letter to King Tuesday urging him to reject the city's request. Logan charges that the city's announcement last month that it would abandon two in-process school improvement strategies, "transformation" and "restart," was meant only to sidestep a requirement that the city negotiate with CSA and the United Federation of Teachers. Without an agreement, King froze federal funds to the schools last month. "Simply stated, if the Turnaround model were the most educationally sound plan of intervention for the 33 schools, it would have been selected for any or all of them in 2010 and 2011," Logan writes. "It was not. It is being proposed now only as a means of evading the ... evaluation requirements." The city is required to negotiate new evaluations in order to receive federal funds and, in a plan Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month, additional state school aid. But Cuomo also said he would push changes to the state's 2010 evaluation law if districts do not adopt new evaluations by mid-month. City officials are lobbying legislators to take that route, even though a statewide teachers union, NYSUT, has said it is on the verge of agreement for nearly all districts other than New York City.
New York

In state budget proposal, Cuomo issues evaluations ultimatum

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo slashed school aid across the state. This year, he plans to add back much of what was lost — but there's a catch. Districts will get the money only if they roll out controversial new teacher evaluations according to an accelerated timeline, Cuomo announced in a hotly anticipated speech in Albany today. He also outlined a procedure by which new evaluations could be put into effect even without local unions' agreement, which a state law passed in 2010 requires. Cuomo kicked off the procedure today with an ultimatum: He demanded that the state teachers union, NYSUT, drop its lawsuit over the evaluations and settle on a “protocol” for new evaluations with the State Education Department within 30 days. "If they can't do that then we'll do it for them," Cuomo said in his address today. Using the state’s unusual Article 7 process, Cuomo could use a budget amendment to change the state’s teacher evaluation law — possibly by striking the requirement for districts and unions to negotiate some details locally. For now, local districts and their unions would still have to sign off on evaluation plans even if NYSUT resolves its issues with the state. Districts that do so by Sept. 1 will be able to compete for $250 million in state funds, Cuomo said today. If they miss that deadline, they will have until Jan. 17, 2013 — a year from today — to settle on new evaluations or give up the 4 percent increase in state aid. "The equation is simple at the end of the day: No evaluations, no money, period,” Cuomo said.
New York

City nowhere to be found at Albany protest about frozen funds

NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi on the steps of the State Education Department building today ALBANY — Nearly 200 teaching jobs across the state could be lost as a result of a decision to freeze federal funding to low-performing schools, according to the head of the state teachers union. New York State United Teachers President Richard Ianuzzi detailed the potential job casualties this afternoon on the steps of the State Education Department building, where the Board of Regents was holding its monthly meeting. He was joined by union officials from six districts and superintendents from Albany and nearby Schenectady — but not from New York City, where he blamed politics for impeding progress on teacher evaluations. The press conference was a response to State Education Commissioner John King's decision last week to suspend federal funding set aside for the state's lowest performing schools, known as School Improvement Grants, in all 10 districts that were set to receive the money. Some of the districts, including New York City, failed to negotiate new teacher evaluations for those schools by a Dec. 31 deadline, and King said the other districts' evaluation plans didn't meet state standards. "What is happening here, ladies and gentlemen, is that the State Education Department has decided that being a bully and acting like a bureaucrat is better than meeting the needs of New York State's most vulnerable children," Ianuzzi said at the press conference. The money still could be restored. King gave all districts a 30-day period to appeal the decision and revise their system to meet his concerns, which he spelled out in letters last week.  District officials at the press conference said that they planned to follow that process.
New York

Sticks, carrots, and familiar policies in state's NCLB waiver plan

New York will get new terms for high- and low-performing schools — and new ways to define good and bad performance — under a proposed accountability plan designed to replace the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The proposal, which was released in draft form late today and will be discussed by the Board of Regents on Monday, is the result of two months of planning in response to the Obama administration's offer to waive some of the decade-old federal law’s requirements, including one that requires full proficiency by 2014. In exchange, states must to commit to prioritizing college readiness, setting guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations, and holding schools and districts accountable for their students' performance on state tests. Under the proposal, the bulk of the state's testing program would remain unchanged. But elementary and middle school students would take science tests; the bar to be considered proficient on high school exams would be raised; and proficiency would be calculated not just by whether students met certain benchmarks, but by how much they improved. Schools that fall short would not get extra funding to pay for tutoring services, an arrangement that has shown mixed results. Instead, they would get extra money to carry out more of the initiatives that the Regents themselves have endorsed, such as improving teacher training and revising curriculum standards. Five percent of low-scoring schools would become Priority Schools and have to undergo federally mandated school overhaul approaches. Another 10 percent would become Focus Schools, and their districts would have to develop plans to improve them. For the first time, school districts will be evaluated with the same scrutiny as schools were under NCLB. "Since district policies often contribute to why schools have low performance for specific groups of students," the proposal says, "districts must play a lead role in helping schools to address this issue." New York City, a district certain to house many Focus and Priority schools, will not be evaluated as one entire district, according to a provision. Instead, each of the city's 32 districts would be evaluated based on state test scores for its schools.  
New York

State teachers union issues its own roadmap to new evaluations

New York

State teachers union will now represent lifeguards

New York State United Teachers, the state chapter of the city teachers union, just announced that the union is on the brink of adding about 500 1,200 lifeguards into its fold. The lifeguards used to belong to another union, but they sought out NYSUT hoping it would offer "stronger representation," according to the press release below. Most of NYSUT's 600,000 members are teachers (and most of those are in New York City) but the union also represents some groups that aren't affiliated with schools, including hospital nurses, group home workers, and day care providers. Read background on how lifeguards got unionized here. Here's the NYSUT press release: Lifeguards join NYSUT seeking a voice, better pay & improved safety ALBANY, N.Y. February 25, 2009 — Along with their whistles, sun block and rescue buoys, some 1,200 state lifeguards, including nearly 500 who protect beachgoers on Long Island’s shores, will be carrying something else on their stands this summer — a NYSUT union card. New York State United Teachers announced today that state-employed lifeguards who protect pools, lakes and beaches from Lake Erie to Montauk are affiliating with the 600,000-member union.  The NYSUT Board of Directors will formally vote to accept the new local union — known as the New York State Lifeguard Corps — on Saturday, ending a nearly six-year legal odyssey that started when lifeguards began seeking better pay, improved training and safety equipment, and a voice in their working conditions.
New York

Studies of tax caps show detriment to education

New York State has the highest local taxes in the nation, prompting Governor Paterson to propose a cap on how much property taxes can be increased for education funding. But how would a tax cap affect public education? Studies show that tax limitations decrease revenue for public services and are associated with lower student achievement and higher class sizes, according to a briefing paper by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Research and Information Services. The briefing paper reviews more than a dozen studies and concludes that state funding does not replace local funding limited by tax caps; in fact, local funding is often used to make up for state funding cuts during economic downturns. Furthermore, tax caps affect poor families and their communities the most, widening inequality. Studies linked tax limitations with lower student achievement, both when comparing districts affected by tax caps to similar districts not affected and when looking at achievement before and after a tax limitation took effect. Also, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Massachusetts' Proposition 2 1/2 made local budgets more dependent on state aid, which fluctuates along with the health of the economy. Prop. 2 1/2 took effect during the "Massachusetts Miracle," a period of rising state revenues due to economic growth; CBPP warns against enacting a similar law during a slow economy, when state funding is unlikely to make up for local shortfalls.