Calling all students: Speak up and be heard during Kids Speak Week!

KidspkWkEducation is and will always be about students. Speak up and be heard!

Public education in New York State is being threatened, and while we hear a lot about what politicians, educators and parents have to say about it there is one voice that is often missing — the kids.

Budget cuts will have an impact on students, but there are still many things to be excited about in education today. New technologies and innovations are finding their ways into the classroom, giving students an advantage unlike ever before. These are the stories that only students can tell and we want to hear about them.

This April, we’ll be letting students from around NYS take over Ed Speaks and talk about why education is important to them. We’re looking for all different types of creative expression, poems, pictures, videos and essays, so get those brain juices flowing!

Below are the submission guidelines. Help us spread the word by sharing out this flyer!

Submission Guidelines:

Students may submit essays, videos, poems or drawings that highlight an aspect of education that is important to them. All entries should be newsworthy, constructive and thought-provoking and must be consistent to the Education Speaks commenting guidelines. All entries must contain the student’s name, school and grade. Submissions
can be e-mailed to and must be received no later
than 5:00 p.m. on April 8, 2014.

All submissions will be reviewed by the Education Speaks editorial board. The decision to run the submission on the Education Speaks blog will be based on the total amount received and the relevancy of the content. Selected entries will run on Education Speaks throughout the week of April 14.

Before submitting your entry, the following technical requirements must be met.

  • Written submissions: Any written submission should be kept to 500 words or less. It can be submitted in a Microsoft Word document, or as plain text in an e-mail.
  • Videos: All videos must be uploaded to YouTube and should be no longer than five (5) minutes in length. Please e-mail the URL, along with your name, school and grade, upon submission.
  • Pictures/Drawings: All pictures or drawings should be saved as a .jpeg and sent as an attachment in the e-mail.

Whether you are submitting an essay, poem, video or drawing – remember – quality counts! So, please be sure to edit before submission.

Friday Rundown: 3.14.14

Happy Pi Day! A lot to catch you up on from this week, including the Senate’s one house budget resolution coming in late last night. We’ll begin there.

The Senate’s resolution gives an additional $217 million over the Governor’s proposal to public schools, but it also gives $250 million more to charter and private schools.

Among the proposals outlined in the Senate’s resolution was a new property tax relief program, dubbed “Freeze Plus.” Here’s the language:

PART FF: The Senate modifies the Executive proposal to create a $1.4 billion Freeze Plus program that freezes property taxes for two years by making the property tax relief permanent. Schools will be eligible for this program in SFY 2014-15 while counties, cities, towns and villages will be eligible in SFY 2015-16. This makes all municipalities and schools eligible in their next fiscal year. Schools will receive $400 million in the first year, growing to $800 million thereafter. Municipalities will receive $200 million in their first year, and $400 million thereafter. In order for homeowners in their jurisdiction to receive the property tax relief in year two of the plan, school districts and local governments must continue to stay within the tax cap and must work towards continuing efficiencies previously adopted with new efficiency plans that may include consolidation and shared services. Municipalities and school districts will develop and implement structural budgetary efficiency plans for sharing or consolidating services that, when implemented, will achieve real savings for taxpayers. Local Governments with 50 employees or less will also be authorized to join municipal cooperative health benefit plans as a tool to achieve savings.

The Senate’s resolution calls for $2.7 billion in funding over five years for a universal pre-k and after-school programs in New York City ($540 million for 2014-15). According to Capital New York, the Senate’s plan also includes $145 million for pre-K expansion in the rest of the state during the next fiscal year, but the funding would be flexible, so schools could choose to use it for kindergarten or restore general state-aid cuts instead.

Here’s an overview of the entire resolution (Capitol Confidential)…And here’s the actual thing.

Moving on…Here’s the rest of your education headlines from the week.

Educators learn Common Core on the fly (Journal News)…Prekindergarten programs, teachers work to keep up with Common Core standards (Glens Falls Post Star)…Parents want to opt out of common core tests, Commissioner says ‘no’ (WTEN)

Cuomo’s Common Core panel: Back off from inBloom (Capitol Confidential)…Read the rest of the panel’s roundup here.

North Country schools are pushing for an end to school-aid cuts this year. (Plattsburgh Press Republican)

Josephine Finn was elected to the Board of Regents, replacing James Jackson, who resigned Monday night. (Syracuse Post Standard)

Unhappy with state school funding, AQE marches on Albany (Capitol Confidential)

South Glens Falls High School held their annual dance marathon and raised a record-setting $583,000 for 39 beneficiaries (Glens Falls Post Star)

AQE calls on Governor to increase funding for all schools

On Wednesday, the Alliance for Quality Education took to the streets and held a rally at the Capitol, calling for the resurrection of their school’s programs, classes and resources that have been cut over the last five years.

Participants delivered this petition, signed by 14,000 New Yorkers, to Governor Cuomo’s office. The petition calls on Cuomo to support all students, not just the 3 percent who attend privately run charter schools. Last week, Cuomo attended a charter school rally in Albany, vowing to “save charter schools,” and ensure that they have the “financial capacity and physical space and government support to thrive and to grow.”

The AQE is calling for a $1.9 billion increase in school aid this year, which they say will prevent more cuts to schools this year and will get the state back on track with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In February, the AQE along with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project of the Education Law Center, toured 14 school districts across the state, gathering evidence of the systematic underfunding of schools.

“Governor Cuomo has ignored the cries for help from New York’s public schools,” Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “Enough is enough.”

“Governor Cuomo has called education the Civil Rights issue of our day, and I could not agree with him more,” Superintendent of Schenectady City School District Dr. Laurence Spring said. “Too many school districts are being underfunded to the point of denying students the very basic services that they need.”

With the two houses of the state legislature preparing their education budgets, the AQE and CFE are preparing for a potential school funding lawsuit if the state does not live up to its constitutional obligation this year.

Cuomo’s Common Core recommendations are out

In case you missed it, last night Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Implementation Panel released its preliminary recommendations. Critics say there isn’t much new here and that nearly all of them have already been adopted by the State Board of Regents or proposed by lawmakers

The short version:

Protect students from inappropriate high-stakes testing by:

    • Banning standardized “bubble tests” for young children (K-2)
    • Protecting students from high stakes based on unfair test results
    • Using instructional time for teaching and learning – not over-testing.

Provide better support for parents and teachers by:

    • Treating parents as essential partners in Common Core implementation.
    • Ensuring that teachers receive the training and support they need and deserve.
    • Giving educators access to quality Common Core curriculum resources as quickly as possible.

Improve public trust in Common Core implementation by:

    • Ensuring ongoing parental and citizen participation and input into Common Core implementation

Protect student privacy by:

    • Establishing strict data protection and security requirements, while ensuring that appropriate educational and operational data-sharing can occur.
    • Halting the state’s relationship with inBloom.

You can check out some news coverage of these “familiar” recommendations hereherehere and here.

And this: Common Core panelist says ‘incomplete’ report was rushed out.

Regents up for reappointment: stay tuned


“It’s going to be a hectic day at the state Capitol with a normally uncontroversial vote on the reappointment of four Board of Regents members having morphed into a referendum on the Common Core.

The outcome of the vote is unusually uncertain, but we know there will be at least one new member because one of the four abruptly announced last night he’s not seeking re-election.

The vote will take place during an afternoon joint session of the Legislature, which at least some of the Senate Republicans – who normally boycott this event – are scheduled to attend. Those who say they’ll be there plan to vote “no” on the incumbents. Call time is noon.”

We’ll keep you posted!

Mohawk Valley residents stand together at “Fight for Our Valley Schools” education rally #NYSchoolsInPeril

Rally_ANew York state’s formula for funding schools is cheating Mohawk Valley students, and residents must demand a change.

That was the message delivered to almost 250 school board members, school employees, residents and students at the Fight for Our Valley Schools education rally sponsored by Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES on Thursday, March 6, at Herkimer College. Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs, Herkimer Central School District Board of Education Vice-President Robert Mihevc and Herkimer Student Council President Daniel Adamek each delivered an impassioned message to the crowd painting a factual, but bleak picture of the plight facing the area’s schools.

“The truth is: You’re getting the short end of the stick,” Timbs told the audience.
Mihevc emceed the evening, welcoming attendees, introducing guests and offering his perspective of how state funding has negatively impacted his home district.

Throughout the evening, attendees texted friends and tweeted their support of the initiative.
After the event, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney spoke with many to listen to their concerns and to also encourage their involvement.

Numbers speak volumes

Timbs spoke for more than one hour, delivering a data-packed presentation that explained how New York’s school funding process deprives poorer schools of much-needed money while continuing to supplement the already strong academic and extracurricular programs of wealthier districts.

The problem begins with the simple fact that the Valley’s school districts lack the resources necessary to support their schools, he said. Using the state’s measure of a district’s wealth, the average New York school district is 1.1 times wealthier than Poland, the area’s wealthiest district, and 2.7 times wealthier than Central Valley, the area’s poorest district. He shocked the audience when he revealed that one New York school district is 52 times wealthier than the state average, making it more than 100 times wealthier than the average school in the Herkimer BOCES. Without sufficient resources to fully support their own schools, local districts rely more heavily on state aid than the average state school.

So, when the state began cutting school aid in 2009-10 to close the state’s budget deficit, it hurt Valley schools and its students worse than the average school. These cuts, known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA, have totaled $42.1 million dollars over four years to the 10 Herkimer BOCES component school districts.

“If there wasn’t a GEA – if there wasn’t a cut – life would be a lot easier in schools,” Timbs said.

Timbs noted that the GEA hurts poorer schools more than it hurts wealthier schools because poorer districts lack a property tax base to make up for lost revenue. His data reveals that area schools would have to raise property taxes by 5 to 13 percent to offset revenue lost under the 2014-15 projected GEA, while wealthy districts would only need to raise taxes by less than 1 percent.

He also refuted claims that the schools will get more state aid than in past years as the state reduces the GEA. He explained that districts will receive more aid than last year, but still not as much as they were promised four years ago. According to Timbs, even the GEA restoration plan penalizes poorer districts. In 2013-14, the poorest districts received an additional $83 per pupil while the wealthiest districts received $220 per pupil.

Unable to further burden local taxpayers, local school districts have cut staff and program and spent their savings. He warned that districts can cut the same teacher once or spend their savings once; schools are running out of options.

Repeatedly, he asked the crowd if they were beginning to see a pattern.

More than state aid and the GEA

Timbs said two other state initiatives are crippling schools.

The tax levy limit, mistakenly called the 2 percent tax cap, takes even more money from Herkimer BOCES school districts.

“None of the districts in this auditorium can raise their budgets more than 1 percent and still stay within the (2014-15) 1.46 percent tax levy limit,” he said.

He also decried the unfairness of the STAR property tax exemption saying that the state has increased the exemption in wealthy districts. The increase lowers the taxes of those living in the state’s wealthier communities, despite the fact that these communities enjoy high incomes and schools with broad academic and extracurricular programs.

A call to action

Timbs closed by encouraging everyone to ask elected officials to end the GEA and to develop a school funding plan that ensures students in all areas of the state, regardless of community wealth, of the high quality education they deserve.

Herkimer High School Student Council President Daniel Adamek took the microphone to present a student perspective on school funding. During a special summer program in Vermont, he had the opportunity to meet with students from throughout New England. Those conversations led him to fully realize how little his school could offer compared to other schools.

He stood before the audience and recorded a brief video of himself saying, “Governor Cuomo, my name is Dan Adamek, and I have a message for you.” Then, he turned the video camera toward the audience who chanted in unison, “Save our schools, save our schools!”


He invited everyone to visit a newly launched, student-run website Students for Fair Funding at

“We must tell our government that quality education is a human right – not a privilege reserved for the rich,” Adamek said.

Click here to visit the Herkimer BOCES website and learn more about advocacy efforts that you can get involved in.

Friday Rundown: 3.7.14

Another day, another cold morning. Looks like our temperatures are creeping up a little bit this weekend though. Silver lining, folks. Here’s your Rundown from the last week.

State Assembly Votes on Common Core Changes

Common Core: Aspiring teachers face certification hurdles (Journal News)

Common Core fallout: Lawmakers hope to find replacements for Regents (Journal News)

Editorial: Cuomo enlists taxpayers in fight for 2-year freeze (Journal News)

Student data company on the defensive at Assembly hearing (Capital NY)

Cuomo TV ad pushes his Common Core stance (NY Daily News – Subscription required)

In second meeting, Cuomo’s Common Core panel tackles new ed policies (Chalkbeat NY)

Money alone won’t solve the problems of New York’s schools (Buffalo News)

State’s budget gimmick is hindering schools (Hint: Three simple letters) (Oneonta Daily Star)

Cuomo Vows to Defend Charter Schools, Setting Up Another Battle With de Blasio (NY Times)…Fred LeBrun: Governor’s charter school baloney blitz (Albany Times Union)…Editorial: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s charter support is a win for kids (NY NewsDay – Subscription required)

College Board Shakes Up SAT (Wall Street Journal)…New SAT should reflect Common Core, standard classroom work (Journal News)

‘I’m tired of watching New York’s decline’: Rob Astorino announces run for governor (Auburn Citizen)

Coverage of Herkimer Regional Advocacy Forum

Assembly votes for Common Core changes

After nearly five hours of debate, the state Assembly voted Wednesday night to delay portions of the Common Core Learning Standards.

The bill would prevent schools from using Common Core-based scores for teacher evaluations for two school years. It also prevents schools from using scores to decide whether a student will advance to the next grade. The bill will also prohibit the State Education Department from sharing student data with certain outside vendors until July 1, 2015.

The bill passed in a 117 to 10 vote.

Earlier Wednesday evening, Assembly Republicans tried to amend the legislation to establish a panel to decide whether to use the Common Core standards at all. The amendment was defeated when lawmakers said it could jeopardize the state’s federal Race to the Top grants.

Throughout the debate, assembly members were at times, very critical of the standards, specifically the implementation of them.

“The roll out of the Titanic went better than the Common Core,” Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin said.

The bill, at the present moment, appears unlikely to be taken up in the Senate. This, from the Journal News:

Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said earlier this week he would prefer to wait for a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put forward its own recommendations. The chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Republican Sen. John Flanagan of Suffolk County, said he supports some parts of the bill, but said he has concerns about other portions.

The Governor’s Common Core panel met yesterday morning. You can get caught up on that here.

Tonight: Herkimer regional advocacy event

Tonight, school leaders, boards of education and community advocacy groups from districts in Herkimer, Fulton, Hamilton and Otsego counties, will participate in a regional advocacy event called “Fight for Our Valley Schools.”

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Herkimer College’s Robert McLaughlin College Center.

The event features guest speaker Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, who will explain how the state’s current funding formula is depriving the area’s students of the high quality education they deserve. Since the GEA’s inception, the state has withheld almost $43.7 million from the 10 component schools that make up Herkimer BOCES.

If you cannot attend in person, you can follow the event’s official Twitter account: @herkimerboces, or keep an eye on our Twitter account, @edspeaksNY, as we’ll be re-tweeting some of the highlights from the event.