A special panel set up by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011 designed to examine local mandates and areas to save municipalities costs has ended with no proposals.
“There weren’t any proposals to the mandate relief council in the last year,” state Sen. Jack Martins told the Albany Times Union on Monday after speaking at the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.
While some small relief efforts (including the relaxing of rules regarding purchases by school districts) were enacted, larger mandates such as the Wicks Law and Triborough Amendment were not addressed, according to the Times Union.
From the get-go, Cuomo was in charge of this panel. According to Capitol Confidential, the governor controlled the majority of appointments to the panel and according to the legislation, the council would conclude on Jan.12, 2015 or “upon departure of the fifty-sixth governor, whichever comes first.”
Groups across New York state have been pushing the governor for mandate relief since he entered office in 2011. In June, a statewide coalition of groups representing businesses, local governments and schools joined together to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of mandate relief and called for six efforts that if enacted, would have helped ease the financial burden on schools and municipalities. They included: including:
- Freezing step increases when contracts expire
- Controlling construction costs
- Providing portable pension benefits
- Redefining compulsory arbitration
- Capping health insurance costs
- Prohibiting new unfunded mandates
In the past, Cuomo has proposed initiatives that, on the surface, appear to benefit students, but have had the potential to become new un/underfunded mandates for schools. One example is the statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten initiative. The state is investing $1.5 billion over five years, but many educational experts, including former education commissioner John King claim that such a program would cost at least that much to operate each year.
“If you want to get to true universality you’re probably talking on the order of about $1.6 billion a year,” King said in an interview after testifying before the joint Assembly-Senate budget hearing on education spending.
While mandates increase accountability and in many cases improve educational quality, they can also limit flexibility and affect how districts spend money. Mandates not only focus on the education, health and safety of students, but they also encompass a wide range of daily school operations. These include:
- Annual Professional Performance Reviews for teachers and principals
- Common Core Learning Standards adoption, implementation and realignment of existing curriculum
- Special education mandates for Individualized Education Plans, specialized
instruction by appropriately certified professionals and related service providers, a CSE chairperson, 504 plans and more. The state has at least 200 mandates beyond federal requirements
- Transportation of students with disabilities to their programs (up to 50 miles); private
school and charter school students (up to 15 miles); and homeless students to current or prior district (parental choice)
- Availability of and staff training on using automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in school facilities
- Purchase of graphing calculators for students taking intermediate-level and high school math and science assessments
- Maintenance of a health record (including dental health) for every student.
- Required collection of students’ Body Mass Indexes, including screening for eating disorders, and reports on the information to the state Department of Health
If you think that’s a long list, check out this more extensive listing of New York state mandates.
You can learn more about mandates and mandate relief in our Mandate Monday series that we launched in 2012.