State School Boards Association Chief Hands Out 2014 Report Card
The New York State School Boards Association's Timothy Kremer hands out his report card for this year’s legislative session.
Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, gave out a mix of high marks and failing grades to the governor and the Legislature in his report card for this year’s legislative session.
Kremer said the hefty increase of $1.1 billion in additional school aid for public education in the state budget, which also included funding for expanded access to early childhood education, and the Smart Schools Bond Act were major wins for the state public education system.
The funding increase has especially helped because of the tax cap, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s property tax freeze and the state Legislature’s failure to fully fix the Gap Elimination Adjustment, Kremer said.
“This has meant millions of dollars in lost aid since the beginning of the recession. It has a really horrible effect on our ability to fund our programs and it has resulted in a lot of layoffs and a lot of program cuts,” Kremer said about the Gap Elimination Adjustment. “And the [tax] cap has obviously changed the economics of public education funding. You’re starting with a dollar amount and then you’re planning your program accordingly rather than planning your program first and budgeting it properly, so it’s a different economic calculation now.”
Another big disappointment for Kremer is the state’s failure to provide mandate relief for schools in light of the tax cap and property tax freeze.
“No significant mandate relief came from this year’s budget,” Kremer said. “That’s been disappointing not to have that support from the Legislature when they have forced us to come up with efficiency plans to cap our taxes, our property taxes. [The state] has got to help us on the cost side, as well.”
Kremer said he would most like to see the Foundation Aid Formula that was used before the recession hit to determine how money should be distributed to the state's school districts.
“There weren’t as many moving parts and you could predict where your funding was going to be and it all made sense,” Kremer said. “The recession came along and we threw all that out and went back to this politicized approach that frustrates everyone and nobody’s happy. So, if I had my dream it would be that we found our way back to a fair and equitable funding formula that was equitable and predictable and [that there] was actually enough money to support public education throughout the state.”
However, Kremer said public education always has been and always will be a highly politicized issue. The most notable example of that dynamic is the rollout of the new Common Core standards. Kremer said NYSSBA is neutral on Common Core issues and the related teacher evaluations that were highly debated this session, but that the group supports education reform.
“I worry a little bit that we’re providing additional safeguards to some teachers that have been deemed to be ineffective,” Kremer said. “If you look at last year’s Common Core testing for grades 3-8 on ELA and Math, 1 percent of teachers are considered ineffective and a few, I’m not sure the percent, let’s say 5 percent, were developing. When all is said and done, all of the hundreds of thousands of teachers in the state, we’re not talking about a lot of teachers. If you look at almost any workforce in almost any industry, you’re going to have about 1 percent of your workforce probably be ineffective and probably should be doing something else with their lives.”