May/June 2019 Issue
April 19, 2019

FINALLY! Enacted budget includes union-backed evaluation law, labor protections

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
state budget
Caption: NYSUT officers, staff and higher education activists with State Senate Higher Ed Chair Toby Stavisky, D–Queens, center, outside the Senate chamber on lobby day. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Remember last spring, when dozens of state senators, including members of the majority, had enthusiastically sponsored NYSUT’s very important teacher evaluation bill. In the end, they failed to bring the bill to a vote! We were so close!

Fast forward to this April: The enacted 2019–20 state budget includes the union’s language to fix the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) law. “Finally!” exclaimed NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

“Educators across New York earned a huge victory after banding together to push for fixes to the broken teacher evaluation system that created undue stress for teachers, students and parents,” he said. “The powerful message they sent to those who stood in the way of real progress will not soon be forgotten.”

In a budget year that, by fiscal measures, was nothing more than disappointing, victory on APPR and some crucial labor protections were the main highlights.

Here’s the evaluations law in a nutshell: It eliminates the mandate that school districts use state test scores in teacher ratings. It restores local control and makes sure that any teacher evaluation system is a subject of collective bargaining.

What the law DOES:

  • It eliminates the state growth model from section 3012-d of the Education Law. Growth scores will no longer be calculated by the state, starting next year.
  • It eliminates the requirement to use state tests in APPR.
  • It places decisions about student performance at the bargaining table. This means all of APPR will be subject to collective bargaining. Districts will not be making these decisions unilaterally.
  • It ensures locals can continue using their current APPR in transition until another one is negotiated at the bargaining table. It also allows all teachers to be covered by group measures removing the high-stakes nature of individual Student Learning Objectives. NYSUT believes most locals will probably use this approach, which will actually reduce testing by eliminating pre-tests.

No one will have to increase testing to comply with this law. Given the approach that most locals used for transition, NYSUT expects testing will decrease, not increase.

What the law does NOT do:

  • It does NOT give any new authority to the commissioner, and it makes sure she cannot backtrack on any of the measures she has already approved. Full repeal of the law would have given her authority to put in place a new system.
  • The commissioner does NOT have the authority to mandate a new test.
  • Districts do NOT choose the performance measures under the law; performance measures will be bargained collectively.

Go to nysut.org to see the updated Fact Sheet on APPR.

Janus

The enacted budget includes language that will protect union members from organizations that seek to undermine unions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ill-advised 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

Groups have been attempting to obtain personal information to disseminate anti-union propaganda designed to erode membership. The language makes it an improper practice for an employer to release a public employee’s personal information.

In addition, new language protects unions from frivolous lawsuits filed by former agency fee payers attempting to collect money paid prior to the Janus decision. It clarifies that these cases have no standing in state court. The money

Amid real-time, often conflicting alarms about shrinking state revenue, budget negotiations mostly failed to improve the state aid picture.

School Aid

The enacted budget allocates $27.86 billion in funding for education, an increase of $958 million, or approximately 3.7 percent more than last year. It includes a $618.4 million increase in Foundation Aid and $340 million to fully fund expense-based aids, which includes BOCES.

NYSUT was able to severely scale back the executive proposal that would have required school districts with buildings identified as “underfunded” to set aside 10 percent of their Foundation Aid increase to provide equity for those buildings. The final version preserves school districts’ local control regarding allocation of their funding.

Teacher Centers

The enacted budget restores $14.26 million to teacher centers. It also provides $368,000 for National Board Certification; $2 million for the Mentor Teacher Intern Program; and $25 million for Teachers of Tomorrow.

Special Schools

The budget provides $17.2 million for increased salaries for staff in 4201, 4410, Special Act and 853 Schools. It also provides $103.9 million to support 4201 Schools and allocates $30 million in new capital funding to address health and safety projects.

Higher education

In one positive development, community college aid was boosted by $100 per full-time equivalent student. However, due to dwindling enrollments, many campuses could see a reduction in state aid. NYSUT-backed final language provides a trigger that ensures no community college campus will receive less than 98 percent of aid from the previous year. State funding for SUNY and CUNY is essentially flat, continuing a years-long trend of underfunding public higher education.

SUNY hospitals

The crucial state subsidy for SUNY hospitals (Downstate, Upstate and Stony Brook) was not restored.

The budget provides $60 million in additional support for the hospitals, for a total of $460 million, to offset the costs associated with uncompensated care provided for their communities. It also budgets $100 million in capital funding.

Revenue

The enacted budget extends the surcharge on high income earners for an additional five years, until 2024; imposes a tax on Internet purchases; taxes real estate transfers over $2 million in New York City; and creates a commission to implement a congestion pricing program in Manhattan south of 60th Street.

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