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ENGAGE NEW YORK UDPATE - May 2004

Thank you to all who attended the Engage New York session in your region. As a result, we hope you will become more involved in letting school leaders, your colleagues, and your legislative representatives know how important high standards and accountability are to educational improvement. And, in turn, how important educational improvement is to the economic success of New York State.

We would like your feedback. Was the information provided useful to you? If you left more confused than enlightened let us know! Where you able to make any contacts with colleagues or community leaders? If you wrote any letters, can we share them with others to provide further encouragement to become engaged?

Business historically as played an important part in the call for higher standards for all students. As such standards have been implemented, resistance to measuring student achievement, and establishing consequences for not meeting standards, has been growing.

We are at a critical time in education. There are constant calls to go back to the old ways. We believe we must stick with the higher standards and assessments and work through the related issues. Much is happening in New York State and we want to continue to share information with you that builds on our Engage New York seminars. This is the first of what will be regular communications from The Business Council Education Task Force about what is transpiring on the state policy level regarding education. The list of task force members and the staff work group is at the end of this message.

Engage New York's mission is:

To unite New York State's business community to speak with one voice on promoting public school reform. And to join with others to help raise the level of academic achievement of all students in New York State.

To date five Engage New York sessions have been held. The first was in New York City with the Partnership for New York City, next, we traveled to the mid-Hudson region to meet with the Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce, then to Syracuse to meet with the Greater Syracuse Regional Chamber of Commerce. The last two were in Buffalo and Rochester with the Buffalo Business Education Alliance and with the Rochester Business Alliance, respectively.

Regent Robert Johnson spoke at the New York city session and provided the audience with an overview of New York State's experiences with higher standards and how they came to be required for all students. He strongly urged business to keep articulating the need for a well-educated workforce.

Commissioner Mills spoke to both the Engage New York Seminar participants and at the Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce monthly dinner. "Never before have the issues of education quality and economic vitality been so close," Mills told the audience.

At the third Engage New York session in Syracuse the Commissioner opened by exhorting businesses to be vocal about the opportunities and challenges students will face in order to succeed in the business world. He drew examples from the advances in technology illustrated by the Mars mission. He talked about the progress that was being made, but he emphasized the urgency of and the need for greater and faster improvement. He also relayed similar messages in Buffalo and Rochester.

Legislative Update

The chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees are considering introducing legislation which would supercede the policy-making authority of the Board of Regents by forcing alternatives to the exams.

Whatever their faults, the Regents exams represent an improvement in core subject matter standards. They not only help measure a student's command of a subject, but they also serve to hold teachers and school districts accountable for classroom performance. There was no such accountability under the old system that allowed school districts to issue local diplomas to students who were unable to pass Regents exams. The local diploma varied from district to district. In some instances, a local diploma might have reflected hard work on the part of the student. But in other instances, it might have represented little more than social promotion.

Now would be a good time to let the chairs of both committees know that statewide tests measuring whether or not students have met standards are a key feature of school improvement that the legislature should not supercede the education policy making body that they elected.

Education Budget Updates

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) law suit has forced major changes in school financing to be considered. Below are the most significant recent developments.

The Governor's budget called for an overall net increase in education aid of $147 million which would bring state aid to education up to $14.6 billion. $100 million of this amount is allocated to New York City as a matching grant.

He also proposed to reserve $325 million of expected revenues from Video Lottery Terminals in anticipation of reforms related to the State Court of Appeals ruling requiring the state to ensure (for New York City) that every child has the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. Subsequent funds (expected to grow to $2 billion over the next five years) from an expansion of Video Lottery Terminals will be used to provide a "sound basic education" to students with the greatest needs. He also proposed to combine seven funding categories into flex aid.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) recently reported that, as a result of its costing out study, the cost of providing a sound basic education to every public school student in New York State will require an additional $7 billion to $9.5 billion of which $3.62 billion would be needed by New York City.

The Board of Regents have proposed the consolidation of 28 aid categories into a foundation aid to drive more aid to needier school districts. They recommend a $6 billion increase in that aid over seven years.

Standard and Poor's conducted a Resource Adequacy Study for the State Commission on Education Reform (Zarb Commission). This study analyzed the spending of better-performing schools using four different options to identify successful school districts. Their methodology generated a range of additional costs of improving education from $2.5 billion to $5.6 billion over the next five years. The CEF and Zarb Commission have made numerous recommendations that inform, but do not resolve the education funding discussion. For more information and commentary on the Zarb Commission report go to.

No matter how the legislature (or the courts) change school aid formulas, accountability and high standards for all students must be kept at the forefront of current and future education reform discussions. Business is the only voice pushing for accountability and effectiveness of school reform in conjunction with education spending.

Members of the Education Task Force

Linda Sanford, IBM, Chairman of the Task Force
William Allyn, Welch Allyn Ventures, LLC
R. Carlos Carballada, M & T Bank
Robert Catell, KeySpan,
Heidi Naulau, The Aarque Companies and current chairman of The Business Council Board of Directors
Paul Ganci, CH Energy Group
Andrew Herbert, Ford Motor Company
Ginger Cannon Bailey, Racemark International, Inc.
Douglas Robinson, Utica National Insurance Group

Companies represented on the Engage New York work group are IBM, KeySpan, CH Energy Group, Welch Allyn, The McGraw-Hill Companies, and State Farm.