Who Is In Charge

Assembly budget: Mayoral control until 2022, adds $1.8B, scraps Cuomo’s ed proposals

The New York State Assembly is poised to retain its role as a check on aggressive education policy changes.

The Assembly’s budget proposal includes $830 million more in school aid than the governor put in his budget in January, but would come with none of the changes to teacher tenure, dismissal, struggling schools policy, or statewide charter school cap Gov. Andrew Cuomo is demanding in exchange for his own funding boost. An outline of the proposal was released Monday evening.

It’s the first budget proposal from new Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx leader who replaced Sheldon Silver earlier this year. Silver had served as speaker for more than decades and was a reliable ally to the teachers union and a foe to groups that sought to weaken the union’s grip on state education policy. But the Assembly budget proposal suggests that there will not be a dramatic shift.

The proposal extends mayoral control in New York City until 2022, the year after a prospective second term for Mayor Bill de Blasio would have ended. Cuomo wants to renew mayoral control but only until 2018, while de Blasio has asked lawmakers to make the school governance structure permanent.

The proposal would increase overall education funding by $1.8 billion, which falls just short of what the state Board of Regents has asked for.

The budget includes a $1 billion increase to the state’s Foundation Aid formula, which skews its benefits toward districts with concentrations of low-income students like New York City. It would also add $80 million to the state’s $340 million universal pre-kindergarten program that launched last year at de Blasio’s urging, $40 million of which would go to New York City.

“This significant investment is part of an overall budget proposal that puts families first and makes a commitment to New York’s children by strengthening our public education system and investing in all aspects that effect a child’s ability to attain independence and academic success,” Heastie said in a statement.

Next up is a budget proposal by the State Senate, which last year introduced a package of charter-school laws in conjunction with Cuomo. The Senate’s leader Dean Skelos, Cuomo, and Heastie will spend the rest of the month negotiating a final spending plan in hopes of reaching an on-time deal by April 1.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”