Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget offers more detail on how school districts will compete for the $75 million in competitive education reform grants.
In his State of the State address Jan. 9, Cuomo announced that he planned to implement some of the initiatives recommended by his Education Reform Commission. School leaders and advocacy groups have largely lauded the governor’s commitment to expanding pre-kindergarten programs, extending the school day or year and establishing community schools, among other programs.
He pledged $75 million to these initiatives in his budget proposal — $25 million to establishing full-day pre-K for high-need districts; $20 million for extended the school day or year in qualifying districts; $15 million for community schools, where students will get health care and other services additional to schooling; $11 million to rewarding high-performing teachers; and $4 million for early college high schools.
According to Cuomo’s budget legislation, any districts applying for these competitive grants must have a teacher evaluation system in place. New York City Department of Education, the state’s largest district, failed to reach an agreement with its union, the United Federation of Teachers, by a Jan. 17 deadline, resulting in the loss of state aid.
For the pre-K funds, districts will submit proposals to state Education Commissioner John King that either establish new full-day programs or expand existing half-day programs. The school days must be at least five hours long.
The legislation does not specify who will evaluate the applications. No district can get more than 40 percent of the grant funds.
Planning and implementation grants to extend instructional time will be doled out by a three-person panel comprised of King, as well as an agency head and an expert in extended learning time, both appointed by the governor.
Qualifying districts would extend instructional time by 25 percent, either district-wide or in selected school buildings. The grant award will equal the average daily attendance in extended time multiplied by the expected cost per pupil.
Again, no single district may be awarded more than 40 percent of the funding.
Under Cuomo’s plan, the state Council on Children and Families would be tasked with creating a plan for building community schools. The council will solicit applications from school districts — either single districts or a consortium of nearby school districts — and decide how much should be provided to each.
No one school districts may receive more than 40 percent of the total award, and the maximum amount one site may receive is $500,000. The award will be paid out in set percentages over a period of time based on achievement of performance benchmarks.
The timeline is to be determined by the council, but the money will be to launch these programs during the 2013-14 school year.
The master-teacher initiative, which would provide $15,000 grants to strong teachers for four years, excludes New York City teachers. Under the proposed law, only math and science teachers or those “in related fields” would be eligible, and teachers must get a “highly effective” rating under the new teacher evaluations.
The teachers receiving stipends would be required to participate in professional development for less-experienced teachers.