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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Wed, Sep 12, 2007

CFE Urges NYS Board Of Regents to Modify Emergency Regulations Governing the Contract for Excellence

It is time for permanent regulations that work, after four-month delay

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. (CFE), the non profit organization working to protect and promote the constitutional right to a sound basic education in New York, urged the New York State Board of Regents to modify the temporary regulations governing the Contract for Excellence, which were this week extended for the fourth consecutive month.

“The Contract for Excellence was created to ensure accountability and transparency in the distribution and use of millions of dollars that resulted from the CFE lawsuit. Without strong final regulations, the affected school districts lack adequate guidance and accountability mechanism to make this a success,” said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director of CFE. “We continue to urge the State Board of Regents to revise the emergency regulations and not just rubber-stamp them into the permanent rules.”

Enacted last April to jump-start the Contract for Excellence initiative statewide, the temporary regulations provided basic instructions for the 56 affected school districts statewide to develop and submit contracts. But the regulations failed to ensure that the funds are primarily spent on high-need, low-performing students and schools, as mandated by the 2007-2008 State Education Budget and Reform Act. In addition, the regulations did not secure that each district sets clear goals and measurements for accountability, and specific requirements for meaningful public input, comment and grievances, among other matters. The Regents are expected to vote on permanent regulations in October.

“After 14 years of litigation we need the Regents to set clear and strong permanent regulations to ensure that this money is effectively spent to ensure maximum results and provide meaningful opportunities for all students. The temporary rules are inadequate to effectively implement the Contract for Excellence, and the law that created it. It is time to turn these faulty emergency rules into permanent regulations that truly work,” Palast added.

Resulting from final ruling in the CFE lawsuit, the 2007-2008 State Education Budget and Reform Act allocated a historic increase in school funding (more than $7 billion statewide during the next four years), created a new distribution formula based on need, and established new accountability and transparency measures in school finance, notably the Contract for Excellence. This initiative consists of plans or “contracts” that low performing school districts that receive increased education funding must develop detailing where the money will go, how it will be spent, and what it will accomplish.

The impacted districts submitted their contracts last July, but the New York State Department of Education has held all approvals until districts provide additional Contract information. CFE has expressed concerns that unless adequate final regulations are in place, CFE funds are likely to be spent in high performing schools or on initiatives that do not primarily benefit the highest needs students in the lowest performing schools.

“CFE conducted an analysis of the proposed New York City Contract for Excellence, which showed CFE monies going to schools that do not fit the high need, low performing profile. We must avoid this at all costs. Clear and effective regulations are necessary to get us there,” Palast concluded.

The next Regents monthly meeting is scheduled for October 22-23. Adoption of permanent regulations is expected then, unless otherwise indicated by the Board prior to the vote.

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Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >