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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Assembly expects to OK school plan; all sides see state budget passed on time

A student studies for an exam on May

A student studies for an exam on May 1, 2013. Credit: Heather Walsh

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature say each other’s description of a teacher evaluation deal is wrong, but they agree on the same plan anyway.

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (R-Rochester) said he expects the chamber’s Democratic majority to vote in favor of a wide-ranging education package that includes a new teacher evaluation process. Morelle said the Board of Regents — chosen by the Legislature led by the Assembly — and local school districts will have great power in creating the new evaluations.

The Cuomo administration, however, said the role of the Board of Regents and the state Education Department that reports to it will have a mostly administrative role in detailing a system Cuomo will set into law.

“I think this is consistent with what we’ve been trying to accomplish given that a lot of our members had expressed concerns about the original proposal by the governor,” Morelle said Tuesday. “This is substantially different from that.”

“I think we’ve done the right thing by giving it to the state Education Department,” Morelle added.

“This is proscribed by law,” a top Cuomo official said Monday night, making the opposite argument. The Cuomo official said that neither the state Education Department nor local union negotiations with school boards can change the parameters because law trumps collective bargaining.

An example of how the two sides see the same issue differently is funding. Cuomo said he will withhold millions of dollars in funding to school districts to force them to get state approval of tougher teacher evaluation systems by November.

Morelle, however, said there is no linking of aid to a new teacher evaluation. Instead, he said funds will be released upon approval of new evaluations as part of the routine releasing of state aid to school districts when they complete required tasks, such as bus purchases.

Either way, chatter in the Capitol that the Assembly Democrats — at the intense urging of teachers’ unions — would reject the education package appears to be unfounded. Cuomo had said that if he doesn’t get approval of his education plan, he would make the state budget late and force his policies into emergency spending bills.

“I don’t expect any problems,” Morelle said. “There is just sort of a physical process we are going through.”


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