past due

Delayed report from Cuomo's education commission due soon

Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission met for the first time in April and had been expected to deliver a report by the beginning of this month.

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.