When Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened a “blue ribbon” teamin April to advise him about how to change the state’s schools, he said it would deliver recommendations by Dec. 1.
Now, two weeks after the deadline, the Education Reform Commission’s report is complete, according to people close to commission. But the report is still under wraps, with just a week left before state government shuts down until 2013.
Citing statistics that showed that the state spent more per pupil than any other in the country yet posted lagging graduation rates and national test scores, Cuomo tasked the commission with assessing how to improve academic performance across the state and also cut costs. He directed members to put all issues on the table, which could include potentially controversial changes to small districts’ operations and to state tenure law.
Several sources say the group’s recommendations are finalized, completed, and waiting for Cuomo’s final sign-off for public release. Neither Chairman Dick Parsons nor Cuomo’s office has responded to requests for comment, but other committee members said they expected the recommendations to be released imminently.
Any recommendations that come in the next week would likely have only a short stay in the news cycle before the holiday break. But they would also come in time to have an impact on Cuomo’s State of the State address, scheduled for Jan. 9.
Last year, education figured heavily into Cuomo’s annual address. It was in that speech that he gave school districts a year to adopt new teacher evaluations or risk losing out on state aid increases, an ultimatum that has city and union officials locked in negotiations at this moment.
Any plans that Cuomo had to reprise education’s prominent role in 2013’s State of the State were likely unsettled by Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the state’s low-lying coastal regions in late October. Now, New Yorkers are expecting to hear about how the state will continue to aid in economic and physical recovery, something Cuomo has been lobbying Congress to help underwrite.
An additional complication is that a political reshuffling in the state legislature has occupied Cuomo’s time and attention in the last few weeks. And Cuomo is also working with an education team that is dramatically different from last year. David Wakelyn, who had been his education secretary since September 2011, had stepped down by May, leaving a leadership vacuum until October, when Cuomo brought De’Shawn Wright from Washington, D.C., to fill the role.
The commission — made up of 25 top-ranking government officials, nonprofit executives, former bankers, and union leaders — has toured the state to listen to education stakeholders in 10 different places. New York City’s first meeting was so crowded this summer that the commission held a second meeting in the fall.
The commission was broken into subcommittees charged with tracking seven education priority areas, ranging from contentious issues about teacher quality, tenure, and workplace rules to state funding disparities among districts. Other areas, such as technology and parent engagement, were less likely to lead to contentious recommendations.