February 11, 2015
By Mark Cannizzaro, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators Executive VP
New York, NY—Governor Andrew Cuomo has unfortunately taken the position that a 4.8 percent increase in state aid to schools, about half the amount most believe to be the minimum necessary, is contingent on his demand that the legislature agrees to his ill-conceived education proposals promulgated in his 2015-16 Executive Budget.
If the legislature says “No,” school districts will receive a 1.7 percent increase—the rate of inflation—over last year’s budget.
As I testified at a recent joint legislative hearing in Albany, CSA and many other education advocates oppose the linking of these controversial proposals with needed increases in school aid. Tying school funds to an evaluation system that is certain to yield invalid and unreliable results, and what amounts to the elimination of due process, will do nothing toward meeting the Regents’ goal of ensuring that all children are ready for college or careers upon graduation!
The state’s first priority should be to meet its legal obligation as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and increase state education funding. The court agreed that New York’s children have not received their fair share of state funds. Unfortunately, the state still falls billions of dollars short of its court-ordered obligation.
We have learned through bitter experience that conditional funding ends up costing schools and districts more money than even the increase provides, due to the costs of implementing new reforms. In other words, the actual result is often less funding for schools!
The Race-to-the-Top funding was certainly an example of this. Districts throughout our state report that the cost of new tests, new data collection systems and the new evaluation system far exceeds the increase in funds allotted to their districts. The No Child Left Behind law proved that we cannot mandate student success by passing legislation. Who remembers the meteoric rise, albeit manufactured, in test scores just a few years ago? Those results were no less accurate than the similarly manufactured drop in test scores of the last two years.
We are now being asked to overhaul the very evaluation system that was announced as historic a few years ago, a system that has been in effect for just over one year in New York City! We agree that we need to take a close look at the evaluation system and fine-tune it. It’s new and must be made better, and we’ve been saying that all along.
But the proposals put forth to increase the weight of student scores on state exams to 50 percent of an educator’s rating and reduce the input of an educator’s direct supervisor to 15 percent of his/her overall rating, will not accurately identify educators in need of improvement or at the top of their game. Worse, it will do absolutely nothing to improve teaching and learning.
It’s time to put politics aside and consult the most respected among us, from the front line teachers and administrators to educational researchers, parents and advocates and finally do right for our students. They deserve nothing less!