Today marks a new fiscal year for the State of New York and the state has an adopted budget.

The state’s $141 billion spending plan, the details of which were technically ironed out past the midnight deadline, includes school aid increases of $1.6 billion statewide, tied to a compromised package of education reforms pushed by the governor that change tenure and evaluation rules for public school teachers.

The state education aid increase includes partial restoration of cuts made in the wake of the 2008 economic crash. Legislators have promised full restoration by 2016-2017.

Riverhead Central School District will see an 8.83 percent hike in state education aid, an increase of $1,853,145, which brings the district’s state aid total to $22,843,376 for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

“We of course welcome the additional state aid. We had been planning on about half that amount while creating the budget for next year,” Riverhead Schools Superintendent Nancy Carney said in an email this morning.

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo said the adopted budget contains “encouraging provisions and disappointing omissions for Long Island.” Among the disappointments, Palumbo said, was the failure to fully restore the post-crash cuts, funding known as the “gap elimination adjustment” for which Long Island school district officials had lobbied hard. The state restored $600 million of those cuts.

“However, now was the time for us to fully restore the GEA for our schools,” Palumbo said. “A total elimination of the GEA would have been the best result for our children and teachers – we need to fight for it to be completely eliminated next year.”

Teacher evaluation rules will change under the measures attached to the budget, albeit modified somewhat from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial proposals in January.

An evaluator from outside the school will now weigh in on teacher classroom performance, in addition to school administrators and student performance on state assessment tests will also contribute to the teacher’s overall score. The relative weight of each component will be set by the state education department.

Cuomo’s original plan called for the teacher’s score to be determined: 50 percent by student performance on state assessment tests, 35 percent by outside observers and 15 percent by building administrators. Currently, the teacher’s evaluation is 60 percent school administrator’s evaluation, 20 percent state test score and 20 percent local test score.

The adopted measure also attaches consequences to the teacher ratings, especially for new teachers, who will have to wait four years, instead of three, to be eligible for tenure. During that four-year period, they must receive three ratings of “effective” or “highly effective” in order to receive tenure.

Under the new rules, districts will be able to fire tenured teachers who have two consecutive ratings of ineffective, the lowest ranking.

Carney said she is “truly concerned about the timeline of the expected reforms and also what they will look like going forward.”

The superintendent repeated a concern she’s raised in the past about “basing teacher and principal evaluation on one assessment,” which she says is “unreliable.”

“We will need to see what the State Education department creates for the new APPR system,” Carney said.

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Denise Civiletti
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.