ALBANY — A week before the State Legislature adjourns, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would give schoolteachers favorable terms on evaluations and tenure — in exchange for a significant increase in the number of charter schools.
The state’s largest teachers’ union and the Democratic-led state Assembly, which have opposed charter school expansions, immediately panned the plan.
Flanagan (R-East Northport) said he was offering a “comprehensive” education bill to address several longtime issues, not just teacher evaluations. The fight over evaluations has been one of the few high-profile issues dominating the final weeks of the legislative session.
With adjournment looming, Flanagan’s proposal could set parameters for negotiations or signal that the issues are dead for the year.
His bill calls for decoupling teacher evaluations from students’ scores on standardized state tests — showing, he said, Republicans are “listening to the opt-out movement on Long Island and elsewhere.”
The measure also calls for reducing teachers’ probationary period from four years to three, allowing them to apply for tenure after that.
Flanagan tied those proposals with another that would raise the limit on the number of charter schools from 460 to 560 and do away with a regional cap that had limited the number downstate.
“We are also listening to parents who are demanding more choices for their children by increasing the number of charter schools in New York City, where nearly 50,000 children are currently stuck on waiting lists, hoping and praying for their shot at a first-class education, and decreasing the number of charters upstate where the need isn’t as great,” Flanagan said in a statement.
The New York State United Teachers and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) consider the inclusion of charter schools in the bill a “poison pill” and said teacher evaluations should be treated as a stand-alone issue.
“I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said.
A spokesman for Heastie noted the Assembly already has approved a bill to de-emphasize the link between standardized tests and teachers’ evaluations — an initiative Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed through in 2015.
Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland called on the GOP-led Senate to follow suit. “If they were truly interested in ending unnecessary testing, the Senate could just pass the bill that already passed the Assembly,” Whyland said.
Cuomo signed a law that strongly tied teacher evaluations to students’ scores on state standardized tests three years ago. Facing a backlash, the state Board of Regents — New York’s education policy board — placed a four-year moratorium on the use of the evaluation system.
Leaders of the opt-out movement have said the Assembly bill de-emphasizing test scores doesn’t go far enough and want a full repeal.
The legislative session is scheduled to end June 20.