main content starts here2015-16 State budget adoption: Schools to see more aid in approved state budget; increases tied to another reboot of teacher evaluation system 

| April 8, 2015

After an unusual state budget process that included a mid-session change in Assembly leadership and preliminary school aid data that was withheld from school districts by the Governor, Mohonasen expects an estimated 7.16 percent increase in state funding over the current year as part of the final state budget approved by the State Legislature. To receive the increase, the state is requiring that districts retool teacher and principal evaluation plans – known as the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) – under a new set of undetermined rules. Updated plans must be approved by the State Education Department by November 15.

“After holding our breath for the last two months, it is helpful to finally have budget figures so that we can continue with our budget planning for next year. As for the education reform policies included in this state budget, it will remain to be seen how they will impact us,” said Mohonasen Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Spring.

In the state budget, lawmakers took a somewhat balanced approach between restoring the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and increasing Foundation Aid, with 60 percent of the funding allocated for these purposes going to GEA restoration and 40 percent being used to increase Foundation Aid.

As a result, Mohonasen will receive $1,176,215 in additional aid through the Gap Elimination Adjustment restoration and $46,637 more in Foundation Aid (general operating aid) next year. Those two figures total $1,222,852.

Because the state had not released any state aid projections up until this point, district leaders were not factoring in a state aid increase when planning for the 2015-2016 budget. As a result, the district’s draft budget shows a more than $900,000 gap between revenues and expenses.

“Given the politics in Albany surrounding education funding policy, we felt it was irresponsible to plan for an increase until we were sure we’d be getting one. We’ve been hoping for the best, but certainly planning for the worst,” Spring said. “Now we can plug these figures into our budget planning and come up with a balanced spending plan to go before voters in May.”

The Mohonasen Board of Education is expected to adopt a proposed budget by April 21. The annual budget vote and Board of Education election is set for May 19.

State budget details

The final 2015-16 state budget, approved just before 3 a.m. on April 1, included some elements of the education reform measures championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Most hotly debated among the reforms were mandated requirements that will require every school district in the state to negotiate a new version of the APPR for the evaluation of teachers and principals. This will be the fourth APPR plan in five years for school districts and the second time in recent years that school aid will be linked to the state’s approval of a local system for rating teacher effectiveness. A similar approach was used in the 2012-13 state budget to incentivize school districts to meet APPR state mandates.

Legislators approving the state budget have assigned the State Education Department (SED) to be in charge of overhauling the new APPR evaluations. It is believed the system will retain a similar scale used now for rating teachers, known as a four-tiered HEDI scale: Highly Effective; Effective; Developing and Ineffective. There was no language contained in the approved budget bills that defines exactly how a teacher/principal effectiveness rating will be determined, though it will be based, in most cases, on two determining factors: student performance on assessments and classroom observations.

The state will assume a much greater role in determining teacher effectiveness than under the current system. Student performance will be reflected in either growth scores based on state assessments or progress toward Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) that are set based on a process to be determined by the State Education Department. The bill approved by lawmakers also provides for the potential use of “optional” assessments, approved by the state, in determining the student performance measure that factors into evaluations. Classroom observations must be conducted by both the building principal and an “independent” evaluator.

The budget also establishes new rules for educators who are rated “ineffective” in two or more consecutive years.

The district will be analyzing the details of the new APPR rules as they become available. The following is a brief overview of the state budget as it pertains to education in New York:

  • State aid – The 2015-16 state budget includes a $1.3 billion year-to-year increase in aid to school districts statewide. Local aid increases are tied to new APPR teacher evaluation plans. A district must have a plan approved by November 15, 2015, in order to receive any increase in aid over 2014-15. The Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has been partially reduced in 2015-16 and is scheduled to end in 2016-17.
  • Teacher evaluations – The New York State Education Department will oversee the latest overhaul of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for teachers and principals. There will be two components to teacher evaluations: student performance on assessments and classroom observations. The value assigned to each component has not been determined. The budget also establishes strict new rules for educators who are rated “ineffective” in two or more consecutive years.
  • Teacher tenure – The probationary period for teachers and principals is increased from three years to four years. Teachers must have effectiveness ratings of either “Highly Effective” or “Effective” in three out of the four years to qualify for tenure. A teacher or principal who is rated “Ineffective” in year four cannot be granted tenure, but can have the probationary term extended by one year.
  • Underperforming schools – The budget sets a timeline for schools that are deemed “chronically underperforming” to improve or face consequences. Districts would be required to have improvement plans approved by the State Education Department and meet objectives contained within the plan. Schools would have one or two years to demonstrate improvement depending on how long it has been underperforming. Failure to show improvement could result in a school being put into receivership, with control of the school being handed over to a state-designated non-profit.

Visit the district’s webpage for more information about the impact of the state budget on the 2015-16 school budget proposal as it becomes available.

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