Behind the Board of Regents’ request for $2.1 billion in school aid

Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa explains their request for $2.1 billion in school aid.

New York state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa speaks at a City & State event in 2018.

New York state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa speaks at a City & State event in 2018. Ali Garber

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, school funding has consistently fallen short of recommendations from the state Board of Regents. But that may change with Democrats now controlling both chambers of the state Legislature. Many new lawmakers made school aid a cornerstone of their campaigns, including complying with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit settlement, which advocates argue the state still owes $4 billion to fulfill. In a recent interview, state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa weighed in on the new majority in the state Senate, discussed the board’s funding proposal for the upcoming budget and spoke about negotiations regarding teacher evaluations.

Are you hopeful that the new Democratic majority in the state Senate will make it more likely your funding proposal will be met in the budget?

So a lot of this pre-work is done even before the election, right. Politically the climate change wasn't a factor in terms of the work that we were doing from July up to November. So to your question, you know, we just kept working on building a stronger foundation for New York's children with the hope that all parties would commit to making a difference in the lives of our children in the state. The Democratic issue, some of the individuals that are very supportive of education’s issue, to me is icing on the cake.

Does that mean that you are hopeful that the change will be good for realizing your budget proposal?

Yeah, what I'm saying to you is that we did the preliminary work with the hopes of always creating a narrative to support our priorities. I think the fact that you have individuals in place that are very committed to education is a major it's a plus, yeah.

What factors went into the decision to have the $2.1 billion proposed funding increase? It’s pretty significant. Was there anything in particular or was it just sort of a natural progression?

Part of it was a natural progression. But part of it, remember, we are undertaking a major component in terms of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and that's that's huge, looking at the implementation of our ESSA. That was one. I'm sure you saw that we've looked at, we call them the Five E's. The equity, the ESSA plan, early childhood, a major commitment to English language learners and looking at how do we create efficiencies to support the district. So all of these, moving even from last year, we had the Four E’s to the Five E’s with ESSA being a major component and expense. We realized that we had to create a narrative that allowed us to support the ESSA plan as our blueprints.

The Board of Regents extended the moratorium on teacher evaluations for another year. What still needs to get done?

I'm trying to engage in various conversations around the issue of, how do we develop an evaluation, both for teachers and principals, that really takes into account student success? And what does that mean and what are the ways that we capture the kinds of things that we want to have in an evaluation? Both from an observational perspective as well as from student performance. But at the same time, I think the key point recently has been making sure that teachers’ voices are part of this conversation, principals’ voices, superintendents and other stakeholders, in terms of, what does this look like from a programmatic perspective? So when we hit September of this year, we knew at that point that we had an expiration date coming up, and we took stock and said, “Are we going to be ready at that point?” And the position was, you know what, let's extend it so that we know that we have a little bit more time to get this right.

Going into 2019, what do you think is the biggest issue facing New York schools or the biggest priority that you want to tackle in the new year?

Probably equity. Equity and I would say, making sure that we create a strong foundation in terms of early learning. Moving through that and making sure that once you build that, you create that foundation, that you build the stepping stones to ensure that children are getting the kind of education experience that builds on that early learning experience. For me, the priority of creating a continuum of success and student achievement, student learning, is paramount. The umbrella of equity for me is making sure that we have the resources and the fundings and the opportunity and the access for all students.