2009 Update from the
New York State Assembly
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Catherine Nolan, Chairwoman
Spring 2009
Letter from Chair:
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan met with teachers from Queens during their annual lobby day.
The Assembly Education Committee has been hard at work since the 2009 Legislative Session has begun. So far this session we have held five committee meetings, Regents interviews and elections, five public hearings on school governance in New York City, and much more.

In this newsletter you will find some highlights from the state budget. Even in economic hard times, the Assembly remained strong in our effort to keep funding a sound basic education for all students in the state of New York.

The Education Committee has also held five public hearings on school governance in New York City. These hearings have given the committee insight into the impact of the 2002 and 2003 legislation on the students of New York City.

Budget Highlights:
“The 2009-10 state budget could have been a disaster for schools, students and taxpayers,” Nolan said. “Even during the worst economic downturn in decades, we maintained our strong commitment to educating our children and providing them with the tools and skills they will need to be successful.”

Meeting the commitment to school districts

The budget lifts the governor’s freeze on reimbursable expense-based aids, including transportation, building aid and BOCES. This helps to ensure that school districts have access to the funds they need. Foundation aid for the 2009-10 school year will remain at current levels. The Assembly continues its historic commitment to foundation aid by phasing in full funding over three years, a year earlier than the executive’s proposal, starting in 2011-12.

Special education cost shift

The budget rejects a shift in cost to school districts for the preschool special education program, saving school districts $185 million in the 2009-10 school year.

Staying committed to universal pre-kindergarten

The Assembly continues its commitment to UPK by maintaining funding at $376 million. In addition, the budget accepts the executive’s proposal to allow for the mid-year expansion of programs that started in the 2008-09 school year.

“The Assembly has been on the forefront of fighting for the growth of the universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program to ensure that every 4-year-old in the state has the opportunity to get a head start in school. Over the past three years, funding and participation for pre-K programs have grown dramatically,” Nolan said.

Centers for Teaching Excellence

To provide teachers with the resources they need to succeed and become even better teachers, the budget fully restores executive cuts to teacher resource and computer training centers, which provide ongoing professional education services to the state’s teachers, allocating $40 million for the 2009-10 school year. $2 million to the teacher mentor intern program, a program that enables experienced teachers in a district to provide guidance and support to beginning teachers, was also restored.

Contract for Excellence

The budget will continue the Contract for Excellence program for the 2009-10 school year. School districts that are required to prepare a Contract for Excellence will maintain the same level of funding as last year, ensuring schools will not have to reduce spending on allowable programs, including class-size reductions, academic after-school programs and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.

In addition, the budget creates new reporting requirements for New York City regarding its Five Year Class Size Reduction Plan to include detailed information by school on:

Additional education restorations

Federal stimulus funds

The budget uses the following federal funds to help local school districts over the next two years:

“Our commitment to education will not only help the state weather this economic storm but will relieve the burden on local taxpayers by providing the extra resources we need to educate children throughout the state,” Nolan said.

Committee News:
New Members to the Committee
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and newly elected Staten Island Regent Dr. Christine Cea.

Speaker Sheldon Silver has appointed two new majority members to the committee, Assemblywoman Joan Millman from Brooklyn who represents the 52nd Assembly District and Assemblymember Mark Weprin from Queens who represents the 24th Assembly District. Former minority leader Jim Tedisco appointed Jane Corwin from Erie/Niagara who represents the 142nd Assembly District. I welcome all of the new members and look forward to working with them during the upcoming year.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan met with New York Board of Regents Milton Cofield, Anthony Bottar, Chancellor Tisch, and James Tallon.

Board of Regents

The State Legislature appointed Dr. Christine Cea to the Staten Island seat and Wade Norwood to the at-large position on the State Education Board of Regents. Joseph Bowman and Saul Cohen were also re-appointed to their current seats.

“The addition of Christine Cea and Wade Norwood, along with the return of Joseph Bowman and Saul Cohen, continues to bring talent and expertise to the Board of Regents. These men and women will help guide our effort to ensure quality education for every child in the state,” said Nolan.

I would also like to congratulate Regent Merryl Tisch on becoming Chancellor of the Board of Regents.

“Merryl Tisch has worked hard for the children of New York State. Her leadership has helped set standards of excellence for the children of this state. I look forward to continuing to work with her and the rest of the Regents,” said Nolan.

Committee News:
Queens Assemblywomen Nolan and Clark pictured with David Strauss and Tom Finkelpearl of the Queens Museum and New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills during the first committee meeting of the year.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan has held five committee meetings so far in the 2009-10 session. In the first meeting she presented Queens Museum Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl and David Strauss with a citation for them and their museum for their dedication to providing art enrichment programs to today’s youth. The Queens Museum holds a number of after-school programs, art outreach programs, art summer camps, and much more. “Queens Museum has allowed many of the city’s children to be introduced to art in ways that were not always available to them. I congratulate them on their efforts and look forward to continuing to work with them even more in the future,” said Nolan.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein pictured with Long Island City members of the NAACP.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills addressed the committee during the first meeting. Commissioner Mills spoke to the committee about the difficult times that many school districts are facing and addressed the many issues that members are seeing in their districts. Assemblywoman Nolan also held a meet and greet for committee members and New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein.

Assembly Standing Committee on Education holds hearings on school governance of New York City
Education Committee Members and Queens Assemblymembers listen to testimony during the first hearing in Queens.
Committee Members and Bronx Assemblymembers during the hearing in the Bronx.

During the 2002 and 2003 Legislative sessions, the Legislature approved the most comprehensive governance changes to the New York City School District. The mayor was provided control of the management of the City’s schools through the ability to appoint the Chancellor of the City District and a majority of the members of the City Board of Education. This translates into power affecting city-wide education policies; the development of a master facilities plan and five-year education facilities capital plan; administrative functions; the development of a procurement policy for public schools; and management over budgetary process and school-based budgeting. As the law is set to sunset on June 30th of this year, the committee is interested in hearing about the impact of mayoral control on the City’s school system and how modifications to the law can address concerns and help to improve the current structure. Hearings were scheduled in all five boroughs and we are seeking to hear input from parents, teachers, students, advocates, and all other interested parties.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan pictured with students from the student government program at Hillside High School during the Brooklyn hearing.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan met with students from a local charter school during the Manhattan hearing. Some of the students even presented testimony to the committee.
Hearing Statistics:
Hearings were held in each borough:

Queens: January 28 at Queensborough Hall

Manhattan: February 6 at Assembly Hearing Room

Staten Island: February 12 at The College of Staten Island

Bronx: March 13 at Lehman College

Brooklyn: March 20 at New York City Technical College

Total number of hours of testimony:

Queens: 8.5 hours

Manhattan: 10.5 hours

Staten Island: 7 hours

Bronx: 9.5 hours

Brooklyn: 10 hours

Total: 45.5 hours

Number of participants that testified, registered or submitted testimony:

Queens: 43 testified and 54 pre-registered

Manhattan: 50 testified and 77 on witness list, plus overflow of another 57

Staten Island: 21 testified and 31 pre-registered

Bronx: 66 testified and 95 pre-registered

Brooklyn: 65 testified and 130 were pre-registered

Recurring issues that witnesses spoke about included parent and community involvement, Community Education Councils, graduation rates, 311 phone system, procurement practices, the delivery of special education services under mayoral control, ELL, and school closures.

Transcripts from the hearings can be found by clicking here.

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