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N.Y. Budget Deal Boosts K-12 Aid, Alters Tenure; Evaluation Changes Loom

New York legislators have struck a budget compromise for the upcoming fiscal year that includes a boost for K-12 spending and changes to teacher tenure in the Empire State, but leaves any changes to teacher evaluations up to the state education department.

In the last few months, both I and my coworker Stephen Sawchuk have writtenly extensively about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's push to tie hundreds of millions of dollars in new aid to public schools to various policy changes. As Stephen's March 24 article tells it, the proposal has riled teachers' unions and other advocacy groups in the state who think the governor's plan to give more weight to test scores in teacher evaluations, among other ideas, are way off the mark.

Associated Press reports that the agreement between lawmakers and Cuomo reached on Sunday would boost education spending by $1.4 billion up to about $23.5 billion annually, according to Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican who leads his chamber—the budget deal hadn't been formally signed into law as of the morning of March 30. However, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, put the aid hike at $1.6 billion, according to Chalkbeat New York. Either way, it's more than what Cuomo wanted, but less than the spending increase sought by unions. (The new fiscal year in New York starts April 1.)

On the particularly thorny issue of how to construct teacher evaluations, the budget to the state education department. It's been about three years since the state worked out a compromise over how to revamp evaluations under the terms of New York's federal Race to the Top grant, but now the state looks poised to go through much, if not all, of the same process all over again. The state Board of Regents, which runs the state education department, has its own ideas for how these evaluations might change. (Stephen noted that the New York also looks poised for yet another commission on education reform involving teacher policy, just two years after a Cuomo-backed commission issued its final recommendations.)

Under the budget deal, however, there's a definitive change to teacher tenure—teachers would now be ineligible for tenure protections until they worked four years in the classroom, up from the current requirement of three years. And teachers would have to earn high ratings in three of those four years. And there's also an agreement that would allow the state to take over struggling schools, although details are vague. 

In a statement, Cuomo indicated that he got his way in terms of hooking more state aid to K-12 policy changes: 

But the president of the New York State United Teachers, Karen Magee, who along with the United Federation of Teachers' Michael Mulgrew has fervently opposed Cuomo's plan, indicated to the media that while she was still finding out details of the budget deal, she was displeased with the initial news reports of the agreement:

And activists who are seeking more state support for public schools, such as the Alliance for Quality Education, broadcast their intention to keep up the pressure on lawmakers in Albany:

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