Education

Lawmakers assess the impact of boosted school aid in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York schools were given a super charge dose of funding by Albany this year. And billions of dollars more in federal aid is on the way, meant to shore up schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — providing support for mental health aides as well as help students who have fallen behind as a result of the public health crisis.

But despite the additional money, problems persist for schools in New York and education officials. A staff shortage — made worse by retirements and a lack of bus drivers — is leading officials to consider ways of fixing those problems.

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New York teachers union, pediatricians launch back-to-school campaign

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's statewide teachers labor group, along with the New York State American Academy of Pediatrics, is set to launch on Monday a back-to-school campaign highlighting a return to in-classroom instruction five days a week this fall.

The effort is set to include a statewide TV ad and digital advertising campaign highlighting the return to the classroom as schools across New York face myriad challenges and uncertainties as COVID-19 cases have spiked over the summer.

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New York's school recovery plan approved by federal government

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Schools across New York are in line to receive $3 billion in federal aid to help students, parents and teachers with the challenges of returning to the classroom following more than a year of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government on Thursday backed the State Education Department's plan for aiding schools with academic support, early learning and mental health needs as schools set a goal for in-classroom instruction.

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In Focus: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy weighs-in on Commonwealth's new school choice law

BY Mario Anderson Kentucky

KENTUCKY — A new law allowing scholarship tax credits to support private school tuition drew a court challenge in June from the Council for Better Education, which argues that the program is unconstitutional and undermines support for public schools.

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Circuit Court and this is the same group that sued over inequities in Kentucky school funding more than 30 years ago. That case led to passage of the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act.

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State lawmakers want to expand programs for children with disabilities

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers on Thursay urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill meant to expand and strengthen programs that serve children with disabilities.

The bill would affect pre-school to school-age children and is meant to provide fair and equitable funding linked to the aid that is given to public schools.

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Special education students could receive post-pandemic support

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would provide special education students with a post-pandemic boost to finish school is nearing completion at the state Capitol on the final day of the legislative session.

The proposal is meant to address the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for students with disabilities who are at risk of aging out of public education by the time they turn 21.

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Analysis: Releasing State Aid to Schools Helped Avoid Steep Losses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the withholding of state aid to schools imposed last year in order to triage the financial fallout from the COVID-19 would end. The move helped many school districts in New York avoid a steep loss in a key source of revenue if the reductions had been maintained.

But, according to an analysis by Moody's Investor Services, not all withholdings during the last year affected school districts equally.

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NY Senate Takes Up Higher Education Measures

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Democratic-controlled state Senate on Tuesday will take up a package of bills meant to boost access to higher education in New York.

The measures include a push for on-campus resources for veterans and granting academic credits to veterans to attend state universities based on their service and experience.

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Gillibrand Bill Aims to Fully Fund Title I, Programs for Disabled Students

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is backing a measure that would require Congress to provide funding for Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — a measure she said is needed amid the disruption to schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill would require funding for key programs that aid low-income school districts as well as students with disabilities. It comes as many schools have either shifted to remote learning or a hybrid model that has led to uneven outcomes for students.

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New York Schools May Face the Worst of "Worst-Case" Budget

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Education officials, from school leaders to union leaders, took one look at the worst case budget as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday and gulped.

The budget line for education is second only to health care in its cost to the state, giving teachers unions, superintendents, school districts and families among those with the highest stakes in the coming weeks as New York seeks billions of dollars in aid from Congress.

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Cuomo: Local Governments Can Require Masks for Schools

BY Nick Reisman New York State

City and county governments will be empowered to set mask wearing mandates in schools, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer had made the request, which Cuomo is granting statewide.

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Groups Urge Against Higher Education Cuts in New York

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Higher education and community groups on Friday released a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to not cut spending for New York's colleges and universities amid an historic economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition of 166 organizations include faculty and student organizations.

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Moody's: NY's September School Funding a Credit Positive

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

School districts getting their state aid this month was good financial news, Moody's found in a report released Monday.

This may sound like a man-bites-dog headline in any other context. But in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it's an ongoing concern for school districts amid the threat of a 20% cut in state funding due to the evaporated revenue as a result of the crisis.

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What NYSUT's President Is Saying About the Union Lawsuit Against New York

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

On Wednesday, the state’s largest teachers’ union filed a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Division of the Budget.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) argues that the state has been withholding money from school districts – which it has. A total of about $100 million so far.

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NYSUT Urges Counties to Mandate Masks in Schools

BY Nick Reisman New York State

County governments should require mask wearing in schools amid an absence of a statewide mandate to do so, the New York State United Teachers on Friday said.

The umbrella labor group had previously urged the state to require mask wearing with some exceptions while indoors for schools as many are set to reopen in the coming days. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Sunday that while mask wearing is strongly encouraged, it's up to each local district to determine the protocol.

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NYSUT Calls for Mandatory Mask Wearing in Schools

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Top teachers union officials on Thursday called for the Department of Health to require schools to make mask-wearing mandatory during all times of the school day while indoors.

The push was backed by the New York State United Teachers as well as the national American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It comes as students, faculty and staff are set to return to the school year in the coming days, though some districts are starting the year in a remote-only format for instruction.

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Cuomo: Colleges With COVID Spikes Will Move to Remote Learning

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Colleges and universities in New York that see elevated coronavirus cases will move to two weeks of remote learning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said.

The criteria announced Thursday in a conference call comes as SUNY campuses around New York are already in session with students on campus. A student this week at the University at Albany tested positive this week.

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Education Group Raises Concerns With Reopening Plans

BY Nick Reisman New York State

A report released Thursday by a western New York-based education group questioned whether school districts are fully prepared to provide remote learning as the academic year begins again in the coming weeks.

The analysis by the Education Trust-New York reviewed reopening plans for 50 school districts in the state, finding that some of the plans failed to respond to the concerns parents have raised after schools closed in March and April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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New York Lawmakers Fear School Cuts Could Be Breaking Point

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Lawmakers in the state Senate on Monday urged lawmakers on the federal level to find a funding solution for New York's schools, as the state withholds 20 percent in funding amid the recession created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state announced earlier this month it would withhold 20 percent of its funding share to school districts as the latest COVID stimulus package is negotiated in Congress, but action is yet to be taken.

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Former State Education Boss: District Superintendents Will Play Crucial Role

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

District superintendents, the chief executive officers of individual Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), will play a central role as schools begin to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to former State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

“State Ed is going to have to use the expertise of the district superintendents who are, really at this time, a godsend for State Ed, and an extension of the work that needs to be done,” Elia told Spectrum News.

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Schools Have Reopening Blueprint, But Questions Remain

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 5:20 PM ET Jul. 17, 2020

New York state education officials have released detailed guidelines for reopening schools, but there's no guarantee teachers and students will be fully back in the classroom in two months.

The guidelines for reopening schools is long — a novel's worth of regulations covering everything from temperature checks to mask wearing and social distancing on buses.

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New York AG James Sues to Overturn Student Visa Policy

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York is suing President Donald Trump's administration over a policy that could prevent international students from continuing to study in the United States.

The suit, announced Monday by Attorney General Letitia James, seeks to reverse a policy that would bar international students from studying in the U.S. if they are not registered to take classes in person.

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New York Releases School Reopening Guidance

BY Nick Reisman and Ryan Whalen New York State
UPDATED 5:27 PM ET Jul. 13, 2020

State education officials on Monday released a framework guidance for schools if they move forward in the coming weeks with in-person instruction.

Update: Gov. Andrew Cuomo later at a news conference released the criteria for whether a school can reopen.

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Pandemic Creates Mental Health Challenge For Schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Schools must find a way to teach their students through video conferencing apps, make a budget work that could be cut in the coming weeks and put together a plan that would allow them to come back for in-person instruction by the fall.

But that doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the mental health challenges facing students and staff that education officials are beginning to address.

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Nearly All NYS School District Budgets Pass

BY Nick Reisman New York State
UPDATED 4:53 PM ET Jun. 17, 2020

Nearly all of the school budgets considered by voters were approved on Tuesday, according to a preliminary analysis released by the New York State United Teachers.

The labor group assessed 388 school budgets put to voters by school districts around the state, finding only five proposals were turned down.

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COVID Continues To Cloud Future Of Schools Reopening

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Nearly each region of New York is on a different time table for reopening its economy as parts of upstate New York move toward a faster schedule than the New York City metropolitan region, which was harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

So, what does this mean for schools reopening in September? Will some schools in, say, the North Country region open faster given what for now has been a far lower rate of infection?

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School Districts Face Uncertainty; Few Break Tax Cap

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Once again, the vast majority of school districts this year are submitting budgets to voters that are within the state's cap on property tax increases.

But for your tax bill, or your child's education, how much will that document be worth a month from now? Or when students begin the school year again in September?

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State Education Officials in New York Seek Federal Support

BY Nick Reisman New York State

New York’s top education officials are seeking federal support for schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe in letters this week urged U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to provide more federal funding for elementary and secondary education.

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Senate Lawmakers: Tax the Rich to Fund New York Education

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Two New York state senators proposed legislation that would tax high earners in the state slightly more for a limited time in order to avoid major education funding cuts.

The SHARE Act, or the Shared Help Assessment to Rebuild Education Act, would increase the income tax rate for earners of more than $5 million from 8.82 percent to 10.90 percent for 2 years.

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Are People Coming Around to "Reimagining" New York Education?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo angered some in the education community around the state by suggesting that technology could replace classroom teaching.

“You know, the older model that everyone goes and sits in a classroom, and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these physical classrooms, why, with all the technology you have,” he asked rhetorically during his daily press briefing.

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Too Old for School? Some NY High School Seniors Could Age Out Without Graduating

BY Morgan McKay New York State

More than 100 education and advocacy groups wrote a letter to the New York State Education Department asking that students that would normally age out of high school, be allowed to return in the fall.

“There are students throughout the state who are living in homeless shelters and families that are in small apartments that may not have the space that they need to sit in front of a computer or a quiet place to study,” Ashley Grant, a Supervising Attorney at Advocates for Children of New York explained.

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School Wellness Effort Gains Ground in New York

BY Nick Reisman New York State

State lawmakers have introduced bills meant to create a first-in-the-nation wellness policy for schools, meant to promote nutrition and healthy lifestyles for students.

The bill, backed by state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Robert Jackson, comes as an effort to create a statewide wellness policy for schools has gained ground in recent weeks.

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13 School Districts Plan Tax Cap Override

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Thirteen school districts in New York expect to propose budgets overriding the state's cap on property tax increases, a survey from the Association of School Business Officials released on Wednesday found.

School districts typically put their budgets before voters in May and overriding the cap requires a 60 percent supermajority.

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Assembly Democrats Unveil Higher Education Plan

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The state Assembly on Saturday unveiled a budget proposal for New York's public college and university system that is meant to boost funding and reject further tuition increases.

At the same time, the Democratic-led chamber wants to provide more funding for non-tuition expenses and spend more on community colleges, while also boosting scholarships at the city and state universities and colleges of New York.

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NYSUT Launches Ad Campaign for Taxing the Rich

BY Nick Reisman New York State

An ad campaign to be launched Friday by the New York State United Teachers union will push for a tax increase for wealthy people in the state in order to add more spending for school aid and education.

The ad being released Friday is part of a half-million dollar buy.

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Uncoding School Foundation Aid, and Cuomo's Proposal to Change It

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 4:34 PM ET Jan. 22, 2020

The Foundation Aid formula was put into place during the tenure of Governor Eliot Spitzer after the resolution of the 13-year long Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. It’s the most important formula of the handful of calculations that are used to fund schools.

But Foundation Aid is tempered by other, older political motives like “save –harmless” which was put into place during the Carey administration, and the “shares agreement” that the governor referenced in his budget address, and which former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos once referred to as “sacred.”

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NYSUT Says Education Spending Falls Short

BY Morgan McKay New York State

School districts are owed billions in foundation aid, according to education advocates. And even though the state is facing a $6 billion dollar budget deficit, school districts remained hopeful.

Yet, the Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal for education aid fell far short of expectations.

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Moody's Says Tax Cap Will Constrain School Districts

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A cap on school property tax increases of less than 2 percent will reduce financial flexibility for districts around New York, a report released on Tuesday by Moody's found.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced earlier this month school districts in New York will be limited to a 1.81 percent increase in their overall levy. The cap, in place since 2012, limits property tax hikes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

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Here and Now: January 14

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Good morning! It's going to be a busy first lobby day of the new year in Albany. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is departing for Puerto Rico. Here's today's schedule: At 8:15 a.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo will hold a press briefing before departing for Puerto Rico. JFK International Airport, Queens.

At 9:30 a.m., Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee Chair Sandy Galef will take testimony to examine changes to the STAR Program provided in the State Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget. Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

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Regents Back $2B Aid Increase For Schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Board of Regents on Monday backed a $2 billion increase in foundation for schools in New York, a move that is expected, but nevertheless unlikely given a yawning budget gap facing down state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The Board of Regents and I continue to make it our mission to ensure equity and excellence in education for all children, and our priorities and proposals build upon this work to further these critical efforts,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said.

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