2007 Update from the
New York State Assembly
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Catherine Nolan, Chairwoman
December 2007

Message from the Chair
Assemblywoman Nolan speaks to colleagues in the Assembly Chamber.
As millions of New York children all over our state returned to school in September, questions about their education need to be asked: Are their schools overcrowded? Are they out of date? What about the right learning approach? Respect – for professional teachers and good administrators as well as for parents and students? Active parents? The right education for special needs children? Sports facilities and physical education? Arts education? Are the basics well taught? Too much testing? Too little? Is there a fair distribution of resources? As we examine these and the many other questions, we realize that in the answers we see the future for New York.

The Assembly Education Committee reviews almost 600 bills during each two-year legislative term. These bills deal with a wide range of issues – school funding, class size, pre-K and early childhood education, testing, special education, transportation, breakfast and nutrition, health care services, construction and maintenance of school buildings, charter schools, continued issues of mayoral, community and other “controls” of the 700 school districts in our state and so much more. There are many “stakeholders,” all with suggestions and opinions. It takes persistence for the Assembly Committee on Education to establish good public policy.

Speaker Sheldon Silver appointed me to chair the Assembly Education Committee in February of 2006. Our responsibility is great. Together, with the more than 30 colleagues from both political parties, representing communities throughout New York State, we have made some important strides during the legislative session. Historically, the Assembly, under the leadership of Speaker Silver and distinguished past chairs Steve Sanders, the late Angelo DelToro, Jose Serrano and the late Leonard Stavisky, has championed additional state dollars for the most underserved schools through a fair funding formula. This year, in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Governor Eliot Spitzer and the legislature dedicated hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to education in a revised formula which made high-needs children the state’s priority. The City of New York will benefit greatly from this new approach.

This legislative session, I am pleased to report, the Committee held hearings on the needs of English language learners and the State Education Department’s oversight in this area. A priority of mine will be to make sure that English-language learners are treated fairly under the federal No Child Left Behind policy. Also, in response to concerns from parents of special-needs children, I sponsored legislation, now law (Chapter 583 of the Laws of 2007), to make sure that hearings about special education were fair. This is a critically important piece of legislation for parents of special education children. And, in response to recommendations by Chancellor Klein and parent groups, another new law (Chapter 285 of the Laws of 2007), will make it easier to serve on Community Education Councils. We hope that this new law will prompt the city to finally address the low level of participation on these councils.

Schools need to work for our children. My responsibility as Committee Chair is to try to achieve that goal. I approach the leadership of this Committee as a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens – a long over-crowded and woefully underserved New York City high school. This high school once served 6000 students in a school built for 3000! Sadly, little has changed in 30 years. High schools throughout New York City continue to be very overcrowded with large class sizes.

I am also a parent of a New York City public school student who is entering fourth grade this year. Like many New York City parents, I am anxious and concerned about the up-coming middle school years because New York City and its Department of Education have not made much progress in this area, despite years of mayoral control and the increased state tax dollars which the city school system receives.

Education policy relies on collaboration. I have enjoyed working with New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson, attending several of his important hearings. I have also attended a meeting of the Board of Regents, both to learn more about state education policy and review the important work of leaders like Regents Merryl Tisch and Geraldine Chapey. I was very honored this year to receive a John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers, speak with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators and meet with the unions which represent the support and professional staff in New York schools.

Assemblywoman Nolan welcomes Members to a meeting of the Education Committee in Albany.

Everyone needs to be at the policy-making table – parents, teachers, principals, administrators, professionals at the State Education Department, and the students themselves. All contribute to the development and implementation of good programs and services for our children. For example, it was a conversation with parents which first focused my attention on class size and its relevance to proper learning. Leaders including Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez of the Hispanic Federation and Hazel Dukes of the NAACP together with many of my Assembly colleagues, particularly a new member from Queens, Rory Lancman, and others successfully advocated for language in the state budget to make sure that small class sizes, which are so common in private schools, are part of the requirements for the Contract for Excellence. The Contract for Excellence is an important initiative launched by Governor Spitzer; it requires low performing school districts like New York City’s Department of Education to meet specific measures of accountability and performance.

New York and its schools will face many challenges in the years ahead. The lasting impact of education and the proper policies, legislation and funding are responsibilities that I take with utmost seriousness of purpose. I am optimistic that we will address problems in a comprehensive and ultimately successful way and look forward to working with all New Yorkers.

2007 Legislative Highlights – Chaptered
Assemblywoman Nolan listens as State Department of Education Commissioner Richard Mills addresses the Education Committee during the 2007 legislative session.
A.09273 (Nolan) - Relates to implementation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004; repealer (Chapter 378 of 2007)

A.08970 (Benedetto) - Extends provisions of law relating to the disposal of surplus computer equipment by political subdivisions (Ch. 158 of 2007)

A.00832 (Englebright) - Provides that expenditures for self-supporting programs shall not be considered as part of a school district’s total spending for contingency budget purposes (Ch. 422 of 2007)

A.06117A (Galef) - Relates to the use of monies in the reserve fund established by a school district (Ch. 445 of 2007)

A.01189A (Gantt) - Relates to the effectiveness of certain chapters relating to transportation contracts (Ch. 165 of 2007)

A.02461A (Morelle) - Creates a New York State interagency council for services to persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing (Ch. 174 of 2007)

A.09030 (Nolan) - Relates to the effect of certain regulations and by-laws on community council members, community superintendents and certain other programs (Ch. 285 of 2007)

A.03249A (Nolan) - Increases the allowable amount of unexpended surplus funds which may be retained by a board of education (Ch. 238 of 2007)

A.05396A (Nolan) - Relates to the burden of proof for appeal procedures for children with handicapping conditions (Ch. 583 of 2007)

A.08486B (Rivera P) - Directs the commissioner of education to promulgate regulations requiring school districts identified by such commissioner to minimize idling of school buses (Ch. 670 of 2007)

2007 Legislative Highlights – General Bills

A.03432C (Diaz) - Relates to video monitoring systems on school buses in the City of New York; requires retrofitting, notification and record keeping

A.03524 (Nolan) - Ensures teachers’ rights to maintain tenure or civil servant status in situations in which Board of Cooperative Educational Services takes over certain program formerly run by a school

A.08337A (Nolan) - Authorizes the inclusion of a surplus factor in the determination of tuition for special education and special act school districts

A.08699A (Nolan) - Establishes a program to identify methodologies and practices utilized by schools and school districts within the state and nationally for lunch programs

A.08838 (Nolan) - Relates to siting requirements for the New York City School Construction Authority’s leasing program

A.03248 (Nolan) - Relates to excluding increased fuel costs from calculation of total spending increases in a contingency budget

A.08425 (Nolan) - Requires the use of voting machines approved by the State Board of Elections during school district elections

A.08698 (Nolan) - Establishes the “Healthy Schools Act”; repealer

A.03496 (O’Donnell) - Enacts the “Dignity for All Students act” to prevent harassment and discrimination

A.02469 (Sweeney) - Requires all first-term members of boards of education to attend training sessions within six months of taking office

A.08685 (Nolan) - Establishes the Museum and Cultural Education Act to provide educational services aid to eligible cultural institutions to fund curriculum-based educational programs for elementary and secondary students

A.04373A (Weisenberg) - Requires chair of committee on special education to provide parents of a child with a disability with a list of programs and services available to the child


The 2007 State Budget provided an historic level of funding for education. New York’s public school children will receive a $1.7 billion increase over the 2006-2007 budget to ensure we have the best possible programs, teachers and state-of-the-art facilities to support our education system.

The budget provides additional support for schools including:

  • $13.6 billion in funding for Foundation Aid based on enrollment rather than attendance, an increase of $1.1 billion. The Foundation Aid formula is based on the average cost of educating students in successful schools and is adjusted for regional cost differences, poverty levels, and pupils with limited English proficiency.

  • New York City will receive $7.5 billion in aid.

  • $437 million for the Universal Pre-kindergarten Program, which maintained the minimum per pupil grant for this program of $2,700, a $146 million increase over last year.

  • $19.7 million for Library Materials aid, or $6.25 per pupil, a $570,000 increase over last year.

  • $6.3 million for Adult Literacy Education programs, an increase of $1 million over last year.

  • $6.4 million in funding for large city school districts for after-school programs.

  • A $1.5 million increase in funding for Independent Living Centers.

The 2007-2008 budget includes provisions to improve accountability in the public schools:

  • Requires the Regents to develop and implement an enhanced state accountability system which would increase the state testing program and include a value-added assessment model.

  • Requires the commissioner to establish targets for school improvement, which will significantly increase the number of schools identified as Schools Under Registration and Review (SURR) and develop a process for assisting those schools.

  • Requires the commissioner to appoint intervention teams to assist low-performing schools with accountability.

  • Establishes a distinguished educator program enlisting educators who have demonstrated success in academic leadership to assist low performing schools in developing action plans.

  • Requires school districts with at least one school requiring academic progress and receiving either a $15 million or 10% increase over the last year in total Foundation Aid to prepare a Contract for Excellence. State funding covered by the Contract for Excellence may be allocated for class size reduction, programs that increase student time on task, teacher and principal quality initiatives, middle school and high school re-structuring, and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.

  • New York City’s Contract for Excellence must also include a plan to reduce class size within five years as specified in statute.

BURDEN OF PROOF Bill Signed by Governor

Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan
Empowers Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Assemblywoman Nolan listened to testimony.
Assemblyman Tom Kirwan and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell (left) attended the hearing.

Governor Eliot Spitzer signed legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair of the Education Committee, requiring school districts to bear the burden of proof in determining special education placement.

The new law states that when a parent disagrees with a school regarding services and requests an Individual Education Plan (IEP) hearing the school must prove that its services provide an adequate education for the child.

Nolan’s Burden of Proof bill was drafted in response to the 2005 Supreme Court case of Shaffer v. Weast which placed the burden of proof on parents. The case overruled a New York State policy that was in place for more than 30 years which had given school districts the legal and financial responsibility for providing proof. Advocates for parents of students with disabilities claimed that shifting the burden of proof discouraged families from requesting IEP hearings because they lacked the information, skills or financial resources to hire an attorney.

“Thanks to this law parents and students will now have protection from the repercussions of the Shaffer v. Weast case. Parents must have the power to advocate on their child’s behalf for the best education possible. We need to ensure they have the tools, regardless of financial resources,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.

Assemblywoman Nolan’s record demonstrates a consistent effort to support people with disabilities and parents’ rights in education. As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, Nolan acted swiftly, joining her colleagues on the committee as well as advocate groups including the UFT, NYSUT, NYSARC, Parent to Parent of New York, and others in moving the burden of proof bill through the legislature before the Supreme Court case could do more damage. Nolan was appointed to Chair the Education Committee by Sheldon Silver in February of 2006. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Lanza (S.5972-A).

“I am thankful that New York State’s original policy will be maintained and that once again the power is in the hands of parents of children with special needs. It is my sincere hope that parents, teachers and school districts continue to work together to serve these families,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.

Nolan Leads Education Committee Follow-up Investigation into Policies for Limited English Proficient/English Language Learner (LEP/ELL) Student Assessment Policy

Nolan with Bob Lowry, Deputy Director of New York State Council of School Superintendents.

New York State Assembly Committee on Education Chairwoman Catherine Nolan held a public hearing on English Language Learners and Limited English Proficient students (ELL/LEP).

Nolan invited community members, educators and administrators involved with ELL/LEP students to testify at the hearing. “Our goal is to learn as much as possible about the needs of students and those charged with educating them. The everyday experiences of educators and administrators is crucial to our understanding and will help us prepare for the new legislative session and budget cycle,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.

According to the State Education Department there are approximately 200,000 ELL/LEP students, comprising over 13% of the total student enrollment in New York State. “Ultimately, new laws should not make it more complicated to accomplish the goal of helping these students,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.

Local educators and experts were also invited to attend the hearing. Dr. Luis Reyes addressed the committee with ideas on how to solve the problems inherent in the current system.

New York State Department of Education Commissioner Richard Mills provided testimony. Other witnesses included, Billy Easton, Executive Director of the NYS Alliance for Quality Education; Catalina Fortino of the United Federation of Teachers; Charles Santelli of the New York State United Teachers; Dr. Marcia Lyles and Maria Santos of the New York City Department of Education.

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