Alliance For Quality Education. 12/2003.

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 Alliance for Quality Education












Making the Right a

Reality











Report from the

Novermber 2003 Statewide Summit and Region Forums


WHAT OUR STUDENTS NEED NOW:

NEW YORK’S URGENT SCHOOL-FUNDING PRIORITIES


Introduction


Schools in underfunded districts around New York State have, for years, been unable to meet their students’ basic educational needs. As a result, many of their students perform far below their grade level, and thousands of young New Yorkers leave school each year without a diploma and without the skills they need to hold decent jobs or be capable citizens. As we all know, this has grave social and economic consequences both for the individuals and for our state.


This year, the state’s highest court handed down a historic ruling designed to make this level of failure a thing of the past. In its decision in CFE v. the State of New York, the New York Court of Appeals gave the State until July 2004 to undertake major reforms of its educational finance system to ensure all students their right to the opportunity for a sound basic education.


A final statewide summit “Making the Right a Reality” was held in November in Albany, NY, by The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE).  More than 150 representatives statewide met to consider the critical priority areas that should be funded in the Governor's 2004-2005Executive Budget. Representatives agreed that AQE/CFE should develop a “down payment” proposal that would support funding the three top priority areas that emerged unequivocally from regional forums held earlier around the state.  They were:  teacher quality; class size reduction; and improved school facilities.


Also a significant number of regional forums called for priority funding for parent involvement; remediation, enrichment, and academic intervention services.  The summit keynote was former Chancellor of the Board of Regents Carl Hayden who began by calling the CFE v. State of New York lawsuit the "Brown v. Board" of our generation.  Chancellor Hayden stated that the CFE litigation was built on a decade of work by the New York State Regents to establish a "unitary standard" for education. While all children in the state are being held to higher Regent Learning Standards, he noted that the work of CFE and AQE is to fill the need for adequate state revenue to fund higher standards.    


Regional Forums


Immediately following the decision, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the Alliance for Quality Education planned a series of statewide regional forums to discuss how to make the rights of our students a reality. The two organizations conducted 11 public engagement meetings in October and November that were well attended. As many as 1,000 people, representing a wide range of community and educational organizations, participated.  


The forums were designed to give New Yorkers an opportunity to learn more about the CFE decision and to help develop a policy agenda for its implementation. Participants first received an update on the CFE decision and implementation plans. They then met in small groups to discuss what needs be done, short term and long term, to make students’ educational rights a reality. To this end, participants debated a draft set of criteria for a new school funding system. They also discussed local resource needs and selected those having the greatest impact on student learning as the most urgent priorities for funding in the coming year.


What We Heard


In meetings throughout the state, over a thousand New Yorkers sent a strong message to Governor Pataki and the New York State legislature: Our students cannot wait another year for the essential educational resources to which they are now entitled by law. Hundreds of thousands of students in New York City and throughout the state are being denied their constitutional right to the opportunity for a sound basic education right now. Programs cutbacks that resulted from last year’s budget have exacerbated their plight. Students’ urgent needs must be addressed immediately.


The development of a full response to the Court of Appeals mandate for extensive reform of the state’s education finance system may extend beyond the April 1, 2004, date for action on the state’s budget for 2004-2005, and long-term reform may need to be phased in over a number of years.


Nevertheless, the governor’s executive budget proposal and the state’s final adopted budget for the next fiscal year must include significant additional school funding to address the most critical priority areas for student success.


The top priority areas emerged unequivocally throughout the state:


Teacher Quality: Participants from every region called for additional resources to improve student access to quality teaching.


Class-size Reduction: In the vast majority of forums, participants called for funding for class-size reduction to provide more students with classroom environments conducive to teaching and learning.


Improved School Facilities: The vast majority also called for immediate funding to improve school facilities that are not safe and humane, are overcrowded and cannot accommodate reasonable class sizes, or are not equipped with the dedicated spaces and instrumentalities of learning necessary to meet the Regents Learning Standards.


In addition, a significant number of forums called for additional funding in the coming year for the following priority areas: parent involvement; remediation, enhancement and academic intervention services; and access to preschool education.





Top 3 Priority Areas


Teacher Quality


Adequate salaries to attract and retain good teachers.


Adequate numbers of teachers for (1) reasonable class sizes; (2) complete course offerings; (3) meeting the needs of academically diverse students.

Recruitment and retention of more minority teachers to better reflect student population.


Ongoing professional development, including (1) mentoring; (2) training relevant to needs of students; (3) diversity and cultural sensitivity training; and (4) content area expertise.


Incentives, including (1) retention bonuses; (2) more pay for better qualifications; and (3) professional development.


Teacher accountability, including (1) serious consequences for low-performing teachers; (2) fixing work rules that prevent proper administration of schools and classrooms.  


On-time budgets for timely hiring and retention.


Ongoing training for administrators to support good teaching.


Better data on teacher quality: valid and reliable measures, distribution patterns.

 

Appropriate Class Sizes

Class size reduction for K-12, and smaller class sizes for K-3.


More staff needed in classrooms if facilities are not available for smaller classes.

 

Improved Facilities

 

Adequate facilities as required for meeting the Regents Learning Standards, including labs, technology, art, music, and physical education.


Small, safe, accessible and conducive to learning, including appropriate class sizes, air conditioning, and ongoing necessary maintenance.


Top Priority Areas by Region


 

Sufficient Qualified Teachers

Appropriate Class Sizes

Improved Facilities

Parent Involvement

Sufficient AIS/extended time options*

Access to Preschool Education

Albany

X

X

 

X

X

 

Binghamton

X

 

X

X

 

X

Buffalo

X

X

  

X

X

Ithaca

X

   

X

 

Long Island

X

X

X

X

X

X

NYC

X

X

X

X

X

 

Queens

X

X

X

X

  

Rochester

X

X

X

X

 

X

Syracuse

X

X

X

   

Utica

X

X

X

 

X

X

Westchester

X

X

X

   

*Academic Intervention Services, including in-school, after-school, Saturday, and summer school programs


Regional Priorities


Albany


Teacher quality, including (1) funding teacher training and mentoring programs; (2) hiring more minority teachers (3) diversity training and community awareness for teachers; recruiting and promoting teaching beginning at the high school level (4) higher pay for teachers to improve retention of quality teachers; (5) incentives for teachers; and (6) well-prepared teachers.


Parental involvement, including (1) incentives for business to provide flexibility for parents’ educational leave; and (2) more resources to increase parent awareness of students’ issues.


Fully funded Academic Intervention Services, after-school and summer programs; also special education services.


Appropriate class sizes to provide more individualized attention.


Binghamton


Adequate and accessible facilities


Consistent funding for early childhood education


Sufficient quality staffing, including (1) help recruiting and retaining sufficient teachers; and (2) ongoing professional development to support for quality teaching.


Supports for more parental involvement





Buffalo


Sufficient qualified teachers to address the current problems and shortages, including (1) inadequate pay and staffing; and (2) lack of consequences for low performing teachers (i.e., tenured teachers are “untouchable”).  Additional resources that could be used include (1) Mentor teachers; (2) resource teachers; (3) staff development – in early reading and writing as well as “diversity training”; (4) and full time teachers in middle school content areas.


Small class sizes


Early intervention


Extracurricular activities


Preschool education for school readiness



Ithaca


Adequate staffing, including (1) additional aid to attract, support, and retain teachers of color; (2) help with teacher retention generally; (3) additional support personnel.


Smaller class sizes


Summer school;  also enrichment programs, art and music.



Long Island


Sufficient instructional materials – textbooks, computers, library books, etc.


Parental involvement and support


Smaller class sizes


Qualified teachers with on-going training and professional development, including (1) training and hiring to improve racial and cultural understanding, and (2) to boost teacher reading skills.


Support services for students, particularly “at risk” students, including: Counselors, school psychologists, nurses, mentors, etc.


Quality preschool programs


Updated facilities




New York City


Small class sizes, (1) below the maximum of 20 for K-12, and preferably between 15 and 18 for K-3; (2) with additional staff in classrooms where facilities are not available; and (3) for creating better faculty to student ratio to improve student discipline.


Better qualified teachers, by providing incentives and the necessary resources to recruit and retain good teachers (especially those with content area expertise who are licensed), such as (1) professional development for teachers and principals; (2) mentoring for teachers and principals; (3) competitive pay, especially for teachers with higher qualifications; and (4) bonuses for faculty who stay for five years.  Other suggestions included (1) getting better data on teacher quality; and (2) changing work rules that currently hinder proper administration of schools and classrooms.


Better school facilities and learning materials that are sufficiently maintained, including (1) sufficient facilities for appropriate class sizes; (2) facilities that are small, safe, accessible, and conducive to learning; (3) facilities and materials as needed for and linked to standards; (4) facilities and resources for art, music, and physical education; (5) air conditioning; and (6) running water in bathrooms.


More resources for parent involvement, including translators and outreach.


Academic intervention services, especially for early intervention.


In-school, after-school and Saturday programs

Rochester

Funding for facilities maintenance and class size reduction


Sufficient and adequately trained school personnel, provided with (1) additional social support staff; (2) mentoring and other staff development, including cultural sensitivity training; (3) more minority staff; (4) adequate and appropriate school materials and supplies.  Other suggestions included (1) “timely” allocation of aid (2) less emphasis on high stakes testing and a relevant curriculum (3) changes in union contract needed to remove barriers to change.  

Staff and programs to foster parent involvement


Pre-K

 


Syracuse

Number and quality of teachers (and other personnel), needed especially to help (1) support learning (i.e. support staff); (2) relieve overcrowding; and (3) provide sufficient class offerings.  To achieve these goals, there is a need for: (1) more staff development, teacher training, and support; and (2) help retaining teachers and administrators.


Facilities, including class size reduction, technology and school repair


BOCES


Utica

Sufficient number of qualified teachers, including (1) mentoring, “non-stop” training to improve effectiveness; and (2) on time budgets for teacher attraction and retention.


Facilities relief from overcrowding and class size reduction


Up to date textbooks


Extracurricular activities and after-school programs


Universal Pre-K


BOCES fully funded


Queens

Class size and facilities relief from overcrowding, and aides to help assist.


More support for parent involvement, including (1) full funding for parent coordinators; and (2) parent education.


Qualified teachers, certified/teaching in license, with staff development opportunities.


Westchester

Teacher quality, namely high quality personnel trained in the area in which they are working, and an improved ability to remove low-performing teachers.


Class size reduction


Facilities


_______________________

This report was compiled by Jessica Wolff, CFE’s Director of Policy Development and

Soneni Smith, Deputy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education.