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Massena Central School Board of Education Update
July 31, 2016

 
 
Junior High Capital Outlay Project
 
The asbestos abatement project at the Junior High is moving forward on schedule and should be finished by mid-August.  Floor tile has been removed and abatement complete in rooms 220, 221A, 222, & 224A, 165, 167, & 169.  Those areas have been cleared and are ready for new tile.  The cafeteria and the rooms around it are still under containment but we have been informed that the work is going well.  It is expected that the floor prep will begin next week and will be followed by the installation of the new flooring & base.  Until we get closer to completion it is unclear what, if any, funding will be left for the mag lock doors. I will keep you posted.
 
Area 6 Dinner
 
Bill Sommerfield and I attended the NYSSBA Area 6 Dinner on 7/27 at the Malone Country Club.  Regent Beverly Ouderkirk provided an update on some of the latest developments from the Board of Regents. NYSSBA Deputy Executive Director Jay Worona presented an overview of recent laws, regulations, and court cases impacting public schools.  Attached is the information from Jay Worona.
 
New York Will Revise Common Core
 
As noted in a recent report from the New York State School Boards Association, “New York is in the process of reviewing and making recommendations for reforming its Common Core Learning Standards. According to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, a revised set of standards should be ready for adoption by the state Board of Regents as early as November 2016, in time for curriculum modifications to begin the following January and initial use of the new standards in the fall of 2017.”
 
Here is a link to the full report. It is unclear at this point if the new standards will differ greatly from the Common Core.  This week, I will be attending a conference with other local superintendents where Commissioner Elia will address this issue. I expect to find out more at that time.
 
Albany Update
 
The following is an update on key educational issues from NYSCOSS Deputy Director Bob Lowry. It includes information about the NYS Comptroller’s recent report that state budget revenues are not meeting projections at this time.  This is concerning news that we will continue to follow.
 
ESSA Implementation


The U.S. Education Department has published proposed regulations outlining requirements for state school accountability plans and other issues related to implementation of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Department will be accepting public comments through August 1. In order to submit comments, visit this link.
 
Here is the summary and analysis of the proposed regulations prepared by our national affiliate, AASA.
 
AASA also prepared a template response which may be adapted by anyone wishing to comment.
If you do submit comments, please share them with us.
 
Most of the concerns I have heard regard the 95 percent participation target in state assessments and the pace at which parts of the law would be required to be implemented.
The new ESSA law itself maintains a requirement that at least 95 percent of eligible students take federally mandated state assessments. The U.S. Education Department's proposed regulations would leave it up to states to determine how to promote participation, specifying four options:
  • Assign a lower summative rating to schools with less than 95 percent participation (the regulations require states to assign all schools a single summative rating using at least three differentiated categories);
  • Assign schools to the lowest performance level on the academic indicator in the state's system of differentiating schools;
  • Require schools to implement a targeted support/improvement plan; or
  • Apply a state-determined action that results in a similar outcome.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call two weeks ago, Newsday reported U.S. Education Secretary John King said that participation is vital in tracking the performance of students of color, adding, "We feel it's important, because we feel teachers and parents need good information about children's progress."
 
But several parties argue that the new regulations are contrary to the intent of the law, which would leave it to states to determine how to promote participation.
The federal law requires that in calculating the percentage of students deemed proficient on a state assessment, the denominator must be the greater of the number of students taking the test or 95 percent of those eligible to do so. To illustrate, if 60 out of 100 students eligible to take a test did so and all met standards, the percentage of students deemed proficient would be 63 percent (i.e., 60/95=63%). But the law states only that state plans shall, "Provide a clear and understandable explanation of how the state will factor the requirement of [the foregoing calculation] into the statewide accountability system."
 
Whatever one thinks of state tests or promoting participation in them, I expect that threatening schools, districts, or states with sanctions for low participation would be more harmful than helpful in restoring participation levels.
 
The second concern I have heard most about is that, while the ESSA law allows 2017-18 to be a pilot year for new state accountability systems, the proposed regulations would require states to begin identifying schools for intervention in 2017-18, based in part on results from 2016-17 — a school year which will begin before states have adopted all the measures to be used in making those determinations.
 
Meanwhile, our State Education Department is proceeding with its efforts to comply with the new law. Last week, I participated in an SED "think tank" session with at least seven superintendents and dozens of other participants representing teachers, parents, principals, school boards, community groups, and advocates for children with disabilities. A first effort is to define guiding principles for the state's new accountability system and the characteristics of highly effective schools.
SED is seeking comments on the guiding principles and effective school characteristics here; comments will be accepted through August 26. Again, if you do submit comments, please share them with us, here.
 
States may submit their proposed accountability plans by one of two deadlines — March 6, 2017 or July 5, 2017. SED will aim for the first deadline. Backing up all the public notice and consultation requirements, this would require SED to have a draft plan before the Regents by no later than their November meeting. This plan would then be circulated for public comment. After any revisions, the Governor must be given 30 days to offer any reactions. Final approval by the Regents could come in either January or February next year.

Outlook for the tax cap

Last week the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics published the Consumer Price Index for June, giving us six of the 12 months of data that will be used to calculate the allowable levy growth factor for the property tax cap for 2017-18 school budgets. If trends for the first six months hold, the factor would be 1.07 percent — better than the current year’s 0.12 percent, but still short of the advertised “2 percent” tax cap.
 
The figure is consistent with inflation forecasts for the entire year. For example, in May the Governor’s Budget Division forecast that the CPI for 2016 will be 1.1 percent.
 
Together with other groups in the Educational Conference Board, we advocated for making the tax cap a "true 2 percent" and other changes in the last session.

July Regents Actions

The Board of Regents conducted an abbreviated meeting this month. They received an update on SED efforts to implement the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (more on that in the first item above) and took action on the following issues:
  • Approved new certification requirements to enable qualified out-of-state educators to work in New York State.
  • Approved regulations governing the new $75 million Community Schools grant program to assist schools designated as "struggling" or "persistently struggling." (NOTE:  last month the Department issued non-regulatory guidance regarding how districts may use the Foundation Aid set-aside for Community Schools). Twelve districts have schools eligible for the new grant program (Albany, Buffalo, Hempstead, Mt. Vernon, NYC, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy, Wyandanch, and Yonkers).
  • Approved  regulations to allow districts and BOCES to employ an individual without a valid teaching certificate as a substitute teacher beyond the current 40 day limit, for up to an additional 50 days (90 days total) in limited circumstances where the district superintendent (for districts that are a component district of a BOCES or a BOCES itself) or the superintendent (for districts that are not a component district of a BOCES) certifies that the district or BOCES has conducted a good faith recruitment search and there are no available certified teachers that can perform the duties of such position.
Looking ahead on state finances

At the risk of spoiling your day, I draw your attention to two items on state finances.
First, yesterday State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported that state tax collections are running 4.5 percent below the levels projected in May after the state budget was enacted. A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo minimized any concerns, telling the New York Daily News, "The financial plan remains intact, we are constantly monitoring revenues and volatility in the global economy, as well as managing expenses, and we'll end the year in balance for the sixth-straight time.”
 
The Governor's Budget Division will release its first quarter update on the state's financial plan in the next week or so, giving a fuller picture of the state's financial outlook.
 
The second item is a recent report from the Citizens Budget Commission, a private, non-profit fiscal watchdog group based in New York City. The report attempts to illuminate the impact a recession could have on state government finances.
 
CBC first estimates the impact on revenues of recessions similar in magnitude to the last three, in 1991, 2001, and 2008. Then, explaining that state revenues were affected in each case for multiple years, CBC projects revenue losses for each year from 2016-17 through 2019-20. In the first full year after the onset of a recession, CBC projects state revenues would decline by 6.7 percent with a recession similar to 1992, by 19.3 percent with a 2001-magnitude recession, and by 21.6 percent if the recession reached the depths brought on by the 2008 financial system collapse.
CBC then notes that the Governor's Budget Division is already projecting structural budget deficits in its four-year financial plan. Combining these with a revenue loss equaling the average of loss resulting from the last three recessions would produce a deficit of $15.39 billion in the first full year after the onset of the recession, or 19.1 percent of projected revenues. In fact, the gap would likely be even greater, since some costs rise in a recession, Medicaid being the largest example of such a cost. Comprising roughly 26 percent of state-funded expenditures, School Aid could not be fully spared from austerity, as it has not been in prior recessions.
 
For now, a new recession is not being projected. But as the CBC report notes, the current post-2008 recession expansion is the fourth longest since World War II. Inevitably, someday we will have another recession. A few evenings ago, I told my family that I try to follow the advice that, "what is inevitable is not to be feared" — a good line I recall from a bad 1970s made-for-TV movie. To professional colleagues, I've expressed appreciation for the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard:  Semper Paratus — always prepared. So how do we prepare in our advocacy for events the news suggests may come our way?
 
I am expecting that the Comptroller's string of audits finding districts with excessive reserves will complicate our advocacy for School Aid in the coming year. Projections like the CBC's are one reason state lawmakers should hope schools have money in reserve.
 
The gaps CBC projects could be partly offset by an extension of the so-called "millionaire's tax" due to expire after December 31, 2017; it currently brings in approximately $3 billion. Whether to enact an extension is likely to be a major issue in the next state budget.

SED turnover

A few weeks back we learned that Carl Thurnau, director of the State Education Department's Office of Facilities Planning will be leaving to work for the New Rochelle City School District. Carl has been a friend to the Council and school districts. His leadership of the Department's school construction oversight office will be missed and we wish him the very best.
 
Earlier this week, we learned that another friend will be leaving the Department. Peter Swerdzewski, Assistant Commissioner for Assessments, Standards and Curriculum will be stepping down to join another organization (undisclosed at this time). In just under a year as Assistant Commissioner, Peter has won fans and friends among our members for openness and responsiveness as a problem solver. Writing to him, one of our leaders said, "Be well and continue to impact children. You have the listening ear and the talent to make a difference."

NYS Comptroller Report
 
The following is the latest information form the NYS Comptroller’s Office.  It includes information about the current state budget gap.
 
Tax Cap Remains Below One Percent for 2017

Property tax levy growth for local governments will be capped at 0.68 percent for 2017, decreasing slightly from 2016, when it was 0.73 percent, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The latest inflation figure affects the tax cap calculations for local governments that operate on a calendar-based fiscal year (Jan 1. – Dec. 31) – which includes all counties, towns, fire districts, 44 cities and 10 villages.
 
Mid-Hudson Region Shows Economic Strength Following Recession

New York State Comptroller DiNapoli released an economic profile of the Mid-Hudson region. The region’s proximity to New York City and quality transportation systems continue to drive economic activity, but the high costs of housing and doing business could impede future growth.
 
State Faces Potential Budget Gaps

New York state faces potential budget gaps in future years, according to an analysis of the state’s Financial Plan released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The budget gaps result from spending increases and tax reductions enacted this year, and the use of temporary resources to pay for recurring costs.
 
State Tax Collections Dip

Tax collections totaling $19.8 billion fell short of projections for New York state in the first quarter of the state’s fiscal year, a decline of $797.6 million, or 3.9 percent, from the same period last year and $454.1 million below projections, according to the June state cash report issued by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
 
District Upcoming Events

8/3-5—Minnowbrook Superintendent's Conference

Supporting Documents

Warona Presentation Laws-Regs-Court Cases 2016
Last Updated: 8/16/16
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