Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers 2014 State of the State Address Jan. 8 in Albany. (Photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office)

The governor and leaders of the state legislature last night announced a tentative agreement on a 2015-2016 budget.

The agreement includes “landmark education reforms and investment” as well as “ground-breaking ethics reform,” according to a press release issued by the governor’s office last night.

Details of the agreement were not provided and would be released today, the press release said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed a $1.1 billion increase in state education aid tied to legislative agreement to pass a series of measures that, among other things, would change teacher evaluation procedures and tenure requirements. The proposals were met with vigorous opposition from teachers unions, school administrators and parents, as well as criticism from Republican lawmakers.

The governor’s refusal to release state aid runs — relied upon by school districts preparing next year’s budget, which must be finalized and ready for a vote by mid-May — incensed school officials and legislators alike.

North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said last week he agrees that the state needs “a different teacher evaluation approach. But to have Gov. Cuomo link the fate of his personal education plan to the state budget is insulting to legislators and the public.”

Palumbo renewed his criticism of the administration’s Common Core curriculum and testing. “Another round of impossible Common Core testing is about to hit our schools, and no dialogue about reevaluating the flawed implementation of Common Core or the harmful testing has taken place,” Palumbo said. “The victims of this educational mess are our children.”

Though no details on the deal have yet been released, the governor said in the press release last night the new reforms will bring “a complete overhaul of the entrenched education bureaucracy.” He said the reforms will be “accompanied by an unprecedented financial investment [that] will put students first by bringing accountability to the classroom, recruiting and rewarding our best teachers, further reducing over-testing, and finally confronting our chronically failing schools.”

The budget deal also includes “real ethics reform,” Cuomo said. It puts in place “the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive rules for disclosure of outside income by public officials, reforming the long-abused per diem system, revoking public pensions for those who abuse the public’s trust, defining and eliminating personal use of campaign funds, and increasing transparency of independent expenditures.”

The budget agreement includes the following spending, according to the press release:

  • Total state operating funds: $94.25 billion – 2 percent growth
  • School aid: $23.5 billion – 6.1 percent growth
  • Medicaid: $17.741 billion; 4.6 percent growth
  • Funds from financial settlements: $5.4 billion, including $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $500 million to expand broadband access across the state.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.