New York State

Albany’s end of session education agenda

A quick look at several education measures under discussion this session.

Students in a classroom

Students in a classroom Areipa.lt/Shutterstock

Gov. Andrew Cuomo revived the debate over charter schools this spring with a call to raise the cap on them in New York City – but it’s not the only education issue that’s still on the agenda in Albany.

Here’s a quick look at several additional measures that are under discussion this session.

Specialized High Schools Admissions Test

There are sharp divisions among state lawmakers regarding the admission process for specialized high schools in New York City. Some state lawmakers support Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to scrap the exam, which is the sole criterion for admission into the city’s elite high schools. However, the Asian American community in particular is opposed to getting rid of the test. Whether or not the state Senate and Assembly vote to make any changes in the upcoming weeks, voices on both sides of the issue are making their opinions known.

Private school oversight

A state Supreme Court judge struck down new state regulations over private schools, but the state Legislature could still act to reinstall regular evaluations of yeshivas and other religious schools. There was some talk during the budget season about making a change. Though that did not happen by the April 1 state budget deadline, religious schools do not have the leverage they did last year when state Sen. Simcha Felder determined the balance of power in the Senate. But, the issue could come up in the final weeks of the session.

For-profit schools

A bill that passed the state Senate Higher Education Committee on May 14 would create a fund to reimburse students at for-profit colleges who allege fraud in degree programs. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, would give students up to six years to file claims and would increase the fines on for-profit colleges that engage in fraud. The bill is poised to pass the state Senate in the upcoming weeks, and a sponsor in the Assembly is expected to be announced this month.

Opting out of standardized testing

A bill before the state Senate Education Committee would require school districts to notify parents of students in grades three through eight about their right to excuse their children from participating in standardized testing. The bill also would prohibit districts from soliciting or encouraging students to opt out of testing. Retaliation against districts, schools, teachers or students based on refusal to take part in testing would also be prohibited under the legislation, which has yet to be introduced in the Assembly.

Boards of Cooperative Educational Services

Boards of Cooperative Educational Services rarely make big headlines, but these programs allow rural school districts across the state to share educational services they otherwise could not afford, from literacy programs for adults to occupational therapy for students with disabilities. However, a state law that allows BOCES to lease private facilities will expire on July 1. The Assembly has already passed a five-year extension of the law. The state Senate will likely follow suit.

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