E-Mail Newsletter – May 21, 2015

Education legislation (A.7303-A) passed overwhelmingly earlier this week to provide more time to devise and implement a new teacher and principal evaluation system, to protect vital funding for our schools, and to ensure that state assessments are grade-level appropriate.

I am proud to have cosponsored this bill and pleased that it passed with strong bipartisan support in the Assembly.

With many new appointments, the Board of Regents are the appropriate professionals empowered to oversee the State Education Department and create an evaluation system that makes sense for our students, teachers, and schools. This cannot happen without sufficient time, which this legislation provides the additional time needed for the Regents to act on teacher evaluations, while dropping the link on local implementation to state aid increases.

Parents and teachers have expressed serious concerns about the grade level appropriateness of the tests. I am pleased and appreciative that this legislation incorporates key goals of the Readability bill (A.7460), introduced last month to ensure that grades 3-8 ELA and math tests are grade-level appropriate so students are not being unfairly tested on questions at a readability level far beyond their grade level.

I’m also pleased that the Assembly passed a resolution today that calls on the federal government not to withhold funding from districts with high opt out rates.

For the past several years, with the implementation of Common Core and increased testing, the focus of our education system has lost a focus from our children. While there is still important work to do, this legislation is an important first step to the fixes that are necessary to bring the focus back to our students.

A.7303-A Fact Sheet

+ Delink the increase in state aid to implementation of a new annual teacher and principal evaluation system;

+ Extend the deadline for the Regents to adopt regulations from June 30 to November 17, 2015;

+ Extend by one year the deadline for districts to fully implement the new evaluation requirements (November 15, 2016), or by September 1 of each subsequent year;

+ Require state-provided growth models (for grades 4-8 English language arts (ELA) and math teachers) to take into consideration certain student characteristics such as students with disabilities, English language learners, poverty status, etc.;

+ Amend 3012-d (new teacher evaluation law) to: modify the definition of “state-designed supplemental assessment” to include “other locally selected measures of student achievement” which must be approved by SED; and modify the teacher observation category to allow, instead of require, districts to use the independent trained evaluator subcomponent as part of a voluntary demonstration project that may be established by the department.

+ Require creation of content review committee to ensure that grades 3-8 ELA and math tests are grade-level appropriate;

+ Provide $8.4 million to print more test forms for grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, eliminate stand-alone multiple choice field tests and release a significant amount of tests questions and answers by June 1 of each year; and

+ Require the commissioner to review Common Core education standards and make recommendations for potential modifications.

Important update regarding Global Companies permit at the Port of Albany. The State Department of Environmental Conservation announced today its intent to rescind the Negative Declaration and Notice of Complete Application for the Global Companies project at the Port of Albany. I joined Assemblymember McDonald in issuing a statement, expressing our appreciation of the action by DEC.

Since the first day we have been in office in 2013, there has been tremendous concern and outreach from our constituents about the potential impact which has caused great consternation both in the affected community and beyond.

As we have advocated continuously at the state level, DEC was to have conducted a review of the permit application for merit and fitness. It is apparent that this review has led to the decision today to rescind the permit and we strongly commend DEC Commissioner Martens and the Governor for this decision.

Additionally, our concerns about safe rail transport of any volatile substance not only through the Port of Albany, but also throughout New York State remain. We look forward to working with the DEC and our local government partners on this effort to provide the safest environment possible for all to work, live and play.

Municipal Health Insurance Savings Act. I was pleased to have joined Assemblymember Phil Steck, Senator Griffo, and other officials on the Municipal Health Insurance Savings Act, which will provide local tax relief.

For years, local governments have been stretched thin maintaining services while dealing with rising health insurance costs. The bill allows cities, towns, villages, school districts, and public authorities to join county self-insured health plans in order to reduce costs. This bill would bring more members into a county’s self-insured plan, spreading the risk across a wider number of employees, and reducing costs accordingly. The Municipal Health Insurance Savings Act has bipartisan support with 34 sponsors.

Events and Highlights from the 109th:

Port Industry Day. I joined Albany County Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso Sr. and Port of Albany Director of Economic Development Megan Daly for their annual Port Industry Day, which aims to promote the impact the Port has on our regional economy.

Bike to Work recap. Thanks to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy in Delmar for hosting us for Bike To Work. A brisk, yet enjoyable ride down Delaware Avenue into Downtown Albany, en route to here at the Legislative Office Building. Thanks to Bethlehem Town Supervisor John Clarkson and staff from Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, among others for attending.

LWV Students Inside Albany Program. It was wonderful to have participated in the League of Women Voters of NYS ‘Students Inside Albany’ Program. I was shadowed by two Bethlehem school students. Thank you to Laura Bierman and Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters for putting this amazing program together and for our many students, especially the wonderful young women who shadowed me, for participating.

Memorial Day Parade. Join me Saturday for Voorheesville’s annual Memorial Day Parade, honoring the service of our nation’s veterans. The parade begins at Route 85A at Circle Drive (across from First Niagara Bank at 13 Maple Avenue).

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit jobs.ny.gov for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---