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Flanagan: Can't wait until June for school aid totals

ALBANY - Though lawmakers might punt the controversial teacher evaluation process until  June, a key state senator said Wednesday they likely will settle the school aid issue now.

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he cannot “envision” lawmakers settling the state budget, which is due April 1, without finalizing school aid.

"I don't envision any circumstance where we'd leave here without a school aid run and school aid numbers,” Flanagan said shortly before Senate Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss budget negotiations. "That is what we have done for decades and there is no reason to depart from that."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has sparred with teachers’ unions for years, has proposed basing 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to students’ scores on standardized tests, instead of the current 20 percent. The Democrat has said the current system is flawed because it rates 98 percent of teachers as effective.

With legislators strongly objecting to the 50 percent mark, lawmakers now are discussing creating a jointly appointed commission to come up with a new evaluation process, rather than adopting Cuomo’s proposals. The idea, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said, is the panel would present recommendations in June.

That’s sparked questions about whether aid wouldn’t be released to school districts until the commission reports. Flanagan said the Senate would oppose that notion.

But lawmakers are warming to the idea of a commission handling the controversy. “It certainly may be a way to get us forward,” said Assemb. Cathy Nolan (D-Queens), chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee.

Nolan said lawmakers have tackled the issue four times over recent years but “it hasn’t been resolved.”

“So there is a sense that we don’t need [213] legislators opining” on the issue, she said.


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