February 2008

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Executive Budget

The Regents will discuss details of the Executive budget proposal. In general, the Executive State Aid proposal is consistent with the Regents recommendation but at a slower phase-in than what was earlier projected. Nevertheless, the total of $21 billion represents a 7.4 percent increase over the current year, with 72.5 percent of the increase focused on high-need school districts. This is a good start in a year with many uncertainties. Foundation Aid alone would increase by 6.6 percent over the current year.

Pre-kindergarten expansion continues with an increase of $79 million, or 21 percent. Public excess cost aid increases by $25 million, or 6 percent. Support for BOCES would be reduced by $31 million due to a proposed shift from a BOCES aid ratio to the State Sharing Ratio, which combines property and income measures of need. The Executive budget continues last year’s $15 million to the State Education Department for accountability, and authorizes filling an additional 113 positions where non-General Fund resources are available.

Here are some of the issues that will get attention during the budget process in the Legislature:

In addition, the Executive’s Article VII bill includes language to direct districts in need of improvement to provide plans for the Commissioner’s approval that re-direct resources to programs on the Contract for Excellence menu; expand the Contract menu of programs to include effective LEP practices and various emotional, health and preventive practices; require an annual assessment of Contract outcomes by December 15; an assessment of the adequacy of physical education and nutritional instruction in schools by February 1, 2009; and require regulations to establish nutritional standards in schools.

Special Education Annual Performance Report

Federal law requires a Statewide Performance Plan to measure results in special education. The Regents will discuss the most recent results. Current data indicate significant progress in some important areas, (e.g., AYP, preschool outcomes, transition planning, post-school outcomes) but there are questions about how to interpret some of the data and doubts about whether all the information is accurate and meaningful. These issues concern two areas where we are reporting data for the first time and don’t have previous benchmarks for comparison.

For example, our post-school outcome survey showed 92 percent of students indicating that they were competitively employed or enrolled in postsecondary education within one year of leaving of high school but the federal measure requires them to have been in one of those categories for only one day during the course of the year.

The data reveal the untimely completion of evaluations and entry into services at the preschool level. These findings support recommendations in the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education’s Final Report regarding increased district accountability and a greater focus on the transition process.

Career and Technical Education

This month the Regents will discuss two items concerning Career and Technical Education (CTE). The first provides a summary of the discussion at the EMSC Committee’s January 28th regional meeting on CTE at Automotive High School in Brooklyn. Experts and stakeholders at the meeting provided insight into issues including increasing access and enrollment in these programs, alternative assessments and teacher preparation. Some suggested next steps for the Regents to consider are included at the end of this item.

The second CTE item is about approval of the five-year state plan required under the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006. The EMSC Committee discussed the design of the plan last month and the draft plan is before the Board this month for action. This plan provides direction to the Department and the field on broadening access to CTE programming to a wider segment of students. The plan moves CTE programs into a 21st century context by aligning them with the Regents P-16 reform efforts.

Charter Schools

In January the Regents asked for information to support deliberations on charter school applications that come before the Board each month. This month the Board will receive a report on the rules that apply when it is asked to take action on direct applications to the Regents and rules that apply to applications from other chartering entities (SUNY, NYCDOE and Buffalo Board of Education). The Board also requested information related to charter schools in small city school districts, which includes summaries of fiscal impact and academic performance.

Contracts for Excellence

This month the Board will discuss proposed revisions to the regulations on Contracts for Excellence to address comments made by the Regents; issues identified by the Department during the first year of implementation of the Contracts; public comments received from interested parties; and suggestions from Contract districts during a December 19th meeting with them. Issues that will be addressed through these proposed revisions include, clarification of the definition of "students with the greatest educational needs" and the term "predominantly" in terms of how the Contract money must be allocated; requirements concerning public hearings on the Contracts, and requirements concerning the complaint process. If the Regents agree with the proposed changes to the draft regulations, this item will be before the Regents for approval in April.

Sunset of Individual Evaluation

The Regents 1998 teaching policy, “Teaching to Higher Standards: New York’s Commitment,” recommended phasing out the individual evaluation pathway (transcript evaluation) for new teachers to become certified. The individual evaluation was phased out for childhood education teachers on February 1, 2007 as this shortage area has been addressed. The remaining certificate titles available through individual evaluation are scheduled to be phased out on February 1, 2009. New York still has a shortage of highly qualified teachers in other disciplines across the state in spite of progress. This month the Regents will review four possible options to prepare a sufficient number of highly qualified teachers, especially in high-need schools.

Two-year Policy Agenda

After two months of discussion the Regents will consider their proposed two-year policy agenda for adoption. This is an important step that will help the Regents focus the attention and efforts of all parties on the essential work ahead.

Commissioner’s Evaluation

The Regents will conduct their annual evaluation of the Commissioner. This closes a two-year cycle of work and will include Regents discussion of a proposed performance agreement for the year ahead.