Senate ed chair wants money for Common Core teachers

John Flanagan. (Senator John Flanagan)
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ALBANY—The chair of the State Senate education committee wants to shift money in the state budget to help teachers struggling with the new Common Core standards.

State Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, suggested taking the money from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's competitive school grants program to pay for the teachers' professional development.

“I think we should be advocating for new money in the coming budget, and the money that is set aside for competitive grants should be repurposed for professional development,” Flanagan told Capital on Thursday.

In a report released Thursday, Flanagan recommended that the state Education Department to allocate money from its existing budget to support teachers as they transition to curriculum aligned to the Common Core, a rigorous curriculum which promotes critical thinking and problem solving. He congratulated the department for using $4 million in federal grant money for professional development but stressed a bigger investment would be necessary as teachers and students adjust.

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“This is more about timing than anything else,” he said, when asked if he's unhappy with the results of Cuomo's competitive grants program. “There is an acute need now.”

The governor earmarked $75 million in the state budget this fiscal year for competitive grants to fund pre-kindergarten and other programs; few districts applied. 

Cuomo's office declined to comment, but the governor would likely be staunchly unwilling to shift away from his competitive-grants strategy. He has also funneled money to public universities and economic development initiatives with similar grants.

Education commissioner John King and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch have said they would prefer to see any additional education funding used to benefit all students, rather than just the select few at the schools that win the grants. But while Tisch and King put forth an annual budget proposal, the final budget will be determined by Cuomo and the Legislature.