Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2010
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents
Subcommittee on Audits/Budget and Finance
2011-12 Budget Request
October 8, 2010
Issues for Discussion
Approval of the proposed 2011-12 Regents Budget Priorities other than State Aid to School Districts, which is handled separately through the Regents Subcommittee on State Aid.
Reason(s) for Consideration
Board input and direction are sought in the development and approval of the Department’s annual budget proposal.
Discussion and decision.
This is the annual preparation of the Regents Budget Priorities for Department programs.
Each year the Commissioner and Deputies review the existing initiatives, make necessary adjustments, additions or deletions and recommend budget priority areas, themes and initiatives for the upcoming year. The budget priorities are reviewed with the full Board which then acts on the final Regents budget proposals.
Given the dire fiscal climate and the expected $8.2 billion 2011-12 State budget gap, the budget priorities recommended to the Board of Regents are limited to those that support the Department’s core mission functions, benefit the State economy by ensuring children are receiving an education that prepares them to succeed in the 21st century and/or close a deficit in a program.
In addition to the revenue enhancements for the Cultural Education Account, the 2011-12 budget priorities by program office are as follows ($ millions):
Regents Exams $15.0
Summer School for the Arts Program $ 0.8
Total EMSC $15.8
Smart Scholars Early College High School Program $ 2.0
Tenured Teacher Hearings $ 7.5
Total Higher Education $ 9.5
GED $ 0.7
I recommend that the Board of Regents approve the 2011-12 Regents Budget Priorities.
Timetable for Implementation
EMSC 2011-2012 Budget Priorities
Budget Request - $15.0 Million State Funds
The Department currently offers Regents exams in various subject areas. They are translated into several languages and five exams (English, Math, Science, U.S. History and Global Studies) are required for high school graduation. The Department can no longer afford to produce Regents exams as costs increase, due to inflation and the need for more test security, and state and federal funding decreases. Of particular note is the nearly 33 percent reduction in General Fund operating support, including support for assessments, over the last two years. The Department is requesting $15.0 million of General Fund support in 2011-12 to fund:
- Regents exams in:
- Italian, French and Spanish
- U.S. History and Government
- Global History and Geography
- Comprehensive English
- Physical Setting/Physics
- Physical Setting/Chemistry
- Physical Setting/Earth Science
- Physical Setting/Living Environment
- Integrated Algebra
- Algebra 2/Trigonometry
- New English Regents exams for grades 9 and 10, which are necessary to obtain the same continuity in testing that exists for other subject areas.
The Department eliminated the exams listed below and grades 5 and 8 social studies exams in the current year because of insufficient funding:
- Grade 8 Second Language Proficiency exams ($2.0 million),
- Component retesting in Math and English Language Arts ($1.6 million),
- High school foreign language Regents exams in German, Hebrew and Latin ($.85 million), and
- August Algebra 2/Trigonometry and Chemistry exams ($.8 million)
This request would also allow for the restoration of the grades 5 and 8 social studies exams and continuation of the January administration of Regents exams and translations of exams into Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Korean and Russian.
New YorkStateSummer School of the Arts Program:
Budget Request - $800,000 State Funds
The summer of 2010 marked the 41st year of operation of the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) Program. Recognized as one of the finest programs of its kind in the nation, over 15,000 high school age students have become part of this unique summer experience.
The eight schools of the Program are directed and staffed by internationally acclaimed artists and companies such as the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Students work in small groups with other students of similar abilities and in one-on-one sessions with professionals. NYSSSA’s objective is to provide intensive, pre-professional training programs for New York State’s most gifted and motivated young artists who are considering careers in the arts or entertainment industries.
NYSSSA is funded by tuition revenue from participating students and a transfer from the Cultural Education Account, which has a negative cash balance. To avoid exacerbating the negative balance in this Account, which does not have enough revenue in 2011-12 to support its own operations, the Department is requesting General Fund support of $800,000 to continue all eight schools of the Program. Tuition revenue of approximately $600,000 will provide the remainder of the funding.
If General Fund support of $800,000 is not received, then the Department will have to:
- Increase tuition,
- Accept fewer students into the Program, and/or
- Reduce the length of the Program which is four weeks at most of the schools.
Auditions, which normally begin in January, will be delayed until after the 2011-12 Executive Budget is released on February 1, 2011 so the Board of Regents can be apprised of the proposed funding for the Program before it makes a decision about the future of it. The Department will send a letter to constituents informing them of the possibility of reductions to this Program given the dire fiscal climate.
OHE 2011-2012 Budget Priorities
Smart Scholars Early College High School Program
Budget Request - $2.0 Million State Funds
During the summer of 2009, the University of the State of New York (USNY) received $6.0 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a network of eleven Smart Scholars Early College High Schools (ECHS) in New York State. As a condition of receiving this funding, New York State must provide matching funding of $6.0 million to support a second round of Smart Scholars ECHS throughout the State. Both the Gates Foundation and matching funding will be spent over several years. The Department is seeking State matching funding of $2.0 million in the 2011-12 State Fiscal Year to fund the second cohort of Smart Scholars ECHS partnerships.
Teacher Tenure Hearings:
Budget Request - $7.5 Million State Funds
Section 3020-a of the State Education Law specifies the procedures school districts must follow to discipline or discharge school employees who have completed a probationary period of professional employment and have been granted tenure by the employing school board. Grounds for discipline may include conduct unbecoming a teacher, failure to maintain certification, immoral character, incompetence, inefficiency, insubordination, neglect of duty and physical or mental disability. The Department’s role in the tenured teacher disciplinary process is primarily ministerial and it has very limited ability to control the costs associated with the Tenured Teacher Hearing (TTH) process.
Over the last several years, the cost of TTHs has increased significantly because the length of cases and the daily rates for arbitrators have increased. Neither school districts nor teachers pay for any of the cost of TTH cases and, therefore, they do not have an incentive to resolve them quickly. The highest paid arbitrators are now getting $1,800 for a five-hour hearing day plus an additional $3,600 (the equivalent of two hearing days) for preparation and study time, for a grand total of $5,400 per hearing day.
The Department is requesting $2.2 million of additional General Fund support in 2011-12 to supplement baseline support of $3.8 million so it can fully pay for the $6.0 million annual cost of this Program. It is also requesting $5.3 million to pay for the accumulated deficit, which developed over several years because the appropriation for the TTH Program has not been sufficient to support it. If an increase isn’t provided, then the current fifteen month lag in paying arbitrators will continue to increase. Court reporters, on the other hand, are normally paid on time because they are paid via a contract which must be encumbered at the beginning of the state fiscal year. The appropriation that remains after the court reporter contract is encumbered is used to pay arbitrators.
The Department is exploring options to stabilize the spending for this Program such as:
- Restructuring the pay of the arbitrators,
- Replacing the arbitrators with public sector administrative law judges, and
- Sharing the cost of the Program with school districts and teachers to provide an incentive to resolve cases in a reasonable time period.
AEWD 2011-2012 Budget Priorities
General Educational Development (GED):
Budget Request - $700,000 State Funds
The GED Program provides the opportunity for thousands of students to earn a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma, which opens doors to higher education, apprenticeship positions and post-secondary training. In 2009, over 55,000 students took the GED test at 134 funded testing centers throughout the State. The Department contracts with these testing sites and pays them $20 for each student who is administered the GED. In accordance with Section 317 of the Education Law, there is no fee imposed upon a student to take the test. In addition, there is no charge for the original transcript and diploma but, after that, there is a $10 fee for an additional copy of a diploma with an attached transcript and a $4 fee for an additional copy of just a transcript.
The Department is making efforts to control the costs of the GED Program. One effort is the new on-line student registration system which was implemented in New York City in July 2010 and is being expanded to the rest of the State this year. This system, known as GED Compass, will greatly streamline the test registration process and ensure that students only register for the GED at one testing center. Another effort is the implementation of a demonstrated readiness requirement as a pre-requisite for taking the GED exam. When fully implemented, this new GED statewide policy and online process will enhance the statewide pass rate. This new policy will also save funding by only allowing students to take the exam once they have demonstrated they are ready to take it by passing the Official Practice Test (OPT) and other online tools aligned to GED level proficiency. Savings from this initiative are estimated to be $300,000 in the 2011-12 State Fiscal Year.
The Department received one-time Education Assessment Account funding of $1.0 million in the current state fiscal year to support the GED Program. Unless State funding is provided to compensate for the loss of this one-time funding in the 2011-12 State Fiscal Year, the Department will be forced to reduce the number of testing sites or testing seats and/or suspend the testing altogether for a portion of the year as it did for six weeks during the summer of 2010. This will stymie higher education and other opportunities for the 1.8 million working age adults in New York State who are in need of a high school credential. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the average 2005 incomes of workers without a high school diploma, with a high school diploma, and with a bachelor’s degree were $17,299, $26,933 and $52,671 respectively. The impact on the State economy is less visible but just as staggering.
OCE 2011-2012 Budget Priorities
Stabilizing the Cultural Education (CE) Account:
Budget Request – Revenue Enhancements for 2011-12 and the Out Years
The Cultural Education (CE) Account provides the majority of operating funding for the State Museum, State Archives, State Library, and Office of Public Broadcasting and Educational Television. Among other purposes, it pays the salaries of more than 300 employees, funds the purchase of State Library collections and State Library and Archives research facilities, and supports public galleries, public programming and education, and scientific and historical research in the State Museum. The CE Account currently has a negative cash balance of $12.0 million as a result of a 41 percent decline in revenue over the last five years and $62 million in transfers to support other state programs such as the Summer School for the Arts Program. Annual revenue is insufficient to support payroll costs, let alone the cost of non-personal service and transfers to support other programs.
As a result of participation in parts A and B of the Early Retirement Incentive, 31 fewer employees will be on the Cultural Education Account’s payroll. The full annual personal service and fringe benefit savings from these retirements are estimated at $3.5 million and will help reduce, but won’t eliminate, the negative balance in the Cultural Education Account. To generate sufficient revenue to fully support ongoing operations and reduce the negative cash balance, the Department will propose revenue enhancements for the Account for 2011-12 and the out years. These revenue enhancements will have no impact on the General Fund.