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April 2, 2015

Overview of school funding and education policy provisions in the final state budget

State aid that the district would receive next year in the budget state lawmakers approved this week is in line with the projection Interim Superintendent John Yagielski included in the 2015-16 budget that he outlined on March 24. This means that the plan he has presented will not be altered as the result of the state budget.

For more information about state aid for Niskayuna and the district's budget, please click here. Below, you will find a look at broader school funding and educational policies that were part of the final state budget.


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 and principal evaluation plan requirements (see below). The overall state aid increase included a reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for 2015-16, with the remainder expected to be phased out in 2016-17.

The GEA is an amount that has been deducted annually from school districts' promised state aid since 2010, a mechanism the state has used to help balance its budget in that time. Niskayuna will see $939,013 in GEA restoration next year. This means the district's outstanding GEA, the amount still being deducted, will be $1.65 million.


Teacher and principal evaluations

The New York State Education Department will oversee the latest overhaul of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for teachers and principals. This will require every school district in the state to negotiate a new version of the APPR for the evaluation of teachers and principals. A district must have a plan approved by November 15, 2015, in order to receive any increase in aid over 2014-15.

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
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.


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.


Some content courtesy of Capital Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; Copyright 2015; All rights reserved. For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.