Mandates and Mandate Relief
New York’s schools provide vital services to
students and families throughout the state. Residents rely on this,
and often the state prescribes how these services should or can be
provided. This affects what personnel school districts have (from
administrative to clerical),
what programs are offered and how districts spend taxpayer money.
These rules, regulations and laws are also called mandates.
For more than 30 years, school and state leaders
have discussed, researched and reported on
how to reduce mandates on school districts and subsequently reduce
taxes. In December 2008, Thomas Suozzi, Chairman of the Commission
on Property Tax Relief, wrote in his report to then-Governor David
Paterson, “These surely are difficult times. We must provide New
Yorkers with property tax relief and we must improve educational
quality. To succeed in both efforts, we must give schools the
flexibility to redirect existing resources towards educational
quality. Mandate reform is essential to that effort.”
Almost every state report that has been released
on the topic of mandate relief for schools has outlined a series of
recommendations on how to achieve such relief. Each report builds on
before it; however, very few of the proposals have actually been
enacted. In fact, almost every year, the Legislature, governor,
Board of Regents or the federal government enact NEW mandates that
districts are required to follow.
More often than not, these new regulations
come underfunded or unfunded — meaning that districts must cut
existing programs or pass on the cost to local taxpayers.
It is not uncommon for politicians or state
education leaders to propose new education initiatives that, on the
surface, appear to benefit students, but that also have the
potential to become new un/underfunded mandates for schools. One
example is the statewide universal full-day pre-kindergarten
initiative from 2014, in which the state would invest $1.5 billion
over five years. Former Commissioner of Education Dr. John B. King,
Jr., estimated at the time that such a program would cost at least
that much to operate each year.
In recent years, organizations representing schools, businesses and
local governments have called for a variety of mandate relief
Ensure there are no new mandates without full
funding, based on an annual accounting of the cost of the
mandates to schools and localities.
Amend the Wicks Law, which requires multiple
contractors on most construction projects, to provide savings on
the cost of long-term capital improvements for school districts
and the state.
Repeal state special education mandates that
exceed federal requirements and drive up costs – by as much as
$1.3 billion annually – without demonstrating a corresponding
improvement in students’ educational outcomes.
Allow for the creation of a reserve fund to
cover costs related to state-mandated employer contributions to
teachers’ retirement system.
Establish minimum health insurance
contribution levels for employees and retirees.
Reform regulations to facilitate greater
efficiency and regional cooperation among schools and
municipalities, including through BOCES.
Reform the Triborough Amendment, which keeps
many aspects of expired union contracts
in place during collective bargaining.
Mandates for school districts come in many forms
While mandates increase accountability and in
many cases improve educational quality, they can
also limit flexibility and affect how districts spend money.
Mandates not only focus on the education, health and safety of
students, but they also encompass a wide range of daily school
Here are some examples:
Annual Professional Performance Reviews for
teachers and principals, including the creation of a district
APPR plan outlining formal review procedures, criteria for and
methods of assessment and how the district will provide training
for reviewers. These new requirements, which are tied to the
federal Race To The Top program, are complex and costly to
Common Core Standards adoption,
implementation and realignment of existing curriculum.
Special education mandates for Individualized
Education Plans, specialized instruction by appropriately
certified professionals and related service providers, a CSE
chairperson, 504 plans and more. The state has at least 200
mandates beyond federal requirements.
Provision of special education services by
public schools to students with disabilities who are enrolled by
their parents in private and/or charter schools.
Internal and external audit requirements and
reporting, and required separation of
business office duties.
Transportation of students with disabilities
to their programs (up to 50 miles); of
private school and charter school students (up to 15 miles); and
of homeless students
to current or prior district (parental choice).
Fingerprinting of potential employees,
consultants and contractors who will be in
school buildings. Sex offender notifications, pursuant to
Mandatory paid employee time off for breast
and prostate cancer screening and blood
Purchase of costly graphing calculators for
students, required for intermediate-level and
high school math and science assessments.
Maintenance of a health record (including
dental health) for every student.
Required collection and reporting (to state
Dept. of Health) of students’ Body Mass
Indexes, including screening for eating disorders.
Availability of and staff training on using
Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in school facilities.
Numerous plans and reports including:
Incarcerated student plans, early grade size district plans,
attendance plans & reports, 5-year capital facilities plans,
building condition surveys, special education space requirements
plan, pesticide notification requirements, school-based shared
decisionmaking plan, instructional computer technology plans,
individual home instruction plans, district and school safety
plans, codes of conduct, etc.
This is only a sampling of the mandates placed on
school districts. The N Y S Education Department has compiled a more
extensive, though still incomplete, list of “mandates that represent
the greatest challenges to districts in terms of financial burden
and required time/ human capital.” View the list at
Produced by the Capital
Region BOCES Communications Service
in consultation with the Questar III BOCES State Aid and Financial
Planning Service. Published February 2015. Copyright 2015, Capital
Region BOCES School Communications Portfolio; All rights reserved.
For more information or permission to use, call 518-464-3960.