By: Amanda J. Zullo, NBCT, Policy Fellow with the New York Educator Voice Fellowship
Re: Sustainable Funding for Teacher Centers

PROBLEM

New York State Teacher Centers are the largest professional learning communities centered around state education goals for New York’s 204,000 public and charter school teachers. Sustained, continual funding from year to year would facilitate teacher center offerings that are strategically designed, disseminated, and implemented focusing on key state education priorities.

SOLUTION

 Appropriate consistent funding for New York Teacher Centers from increased state budget contributions, ideally $40 million. Consider additional funding from state Title II allocations.

BACKGROUND

Teacher Centers are the only state funded vehicle guaranteed to support professional development in ALL school districts. Centers can be traced back to Al Shanker, president of the United Federation of Teachers from 1964–1985 and president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1974–1997. He saw a professional learning system organized and operated by teachers to improve their own educational performance. This vision became a reality in the 1970s with the use of federal funds and became supported by New York State through legislative funding in 1984 by education law 316. The initial appropriation of $3.5 million established 44 Teacher Centers.

All teacher center professional development is provided by educators, for educators, utilizing research based approaches that correspond to unique community resources and needs across the diverse state. The professional development is comprehensive, promoting teacher excellence and student achievement. This ongoing direct support ranges from in classroom assistance to after school groups with the top area of professional development provided by teacher center’s is a focus on integrating technology into curriculum and instruction aligned to the New York State Pk-12 Learning Standards (1). The vast majority (86.9 percent) of teachers claim professional development provided by peer teachers to be valuable, far surpassing alternative options. On the other end of the spectrum, fewer than one-third of teachers (32.7 percent) felt that professional development from their district or charter management organization was valuable (2). The training provided is needed by our educators and they and their students greatly benefit from it.

In 2015 along with the New York State Budget, section 3006 of Education Law changed requiring teacher to have 100 high quality continuing education hours over 5 years to maintain their professional certificate. All teacher Centers are approved to provide New York continuing teacher and leader education. Centers operated locally, with regional and statewide network support. They are governed by policy boards composed of 51% teachers driving the offerings creating connections between local educator needs and state priority initiatives. Last year the 126 Teacher Centers funding of $14.26 million supported 126 Teacher Centers offering over 78,000 activities for 505,992 teacher and administrators related to twelve key areas that are state priorities such as working with partner organizations for cost-savings and creating career opportunities for students. It also supported 6 Regional Networks, 3 Statewide Committees and 3 Statewide Projects.

As can been seen in the chart, funding for New York State Teacher Centers has varied greatly since their origins with a high of $40 million cited in 2007-2009 for 133 centers. Current funding is on-par with levels allocated in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In the past two budget cycles two union groups, United Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers, have lobbied for $40 million in allocation to the teacher centers so that teachers can continually be provided with the professional learning opportunities that they need and benefit from.

PROPOSAL

It is recommended that $40 million is appropriated in the state budget for Teacher Centers. Funding will sustain and support the 2015 New York State Budget, section 3006 of Education Law requiring teacher to have 100 high quality continuing education hours over 5 years to maintain their professional certificate.

This allocation of funds could originate from a small  increase in the percentage of education funding from Foundation Aid. Funding from the state legislature at 0.17% of the allocated education budget for consecutive years would facilitate consistent, integrated teacher center focus in the implementation and advancement of current state policy priorities including a focus on the implementation of the NYS Board of Regents Education Reform Agenda and the state’s Smart School Bond Act (3).  

Consistent funding of teacher’s centers will ensure that every teacher in the state has access to high quality professional development that is aligned with both local resources and state initiatives. The connections to local presenters who are also teachers fosters the agency to utilize the learned strategies to increase student learning. Knowing that the impact of the teacher is a high factor relating to student achievement, equipping teachers with knowledge and skills provided by New York State Teacher Center’s will raise student achievement in New York State.

 

For more information, contact the New York Educator Voice Fellowship or email maryconroy.almada@americaachieves.org. 


[Footnotes, works cited]

  1. Documents shared by Dawn Graham, NYSED, November 21, 2016.  https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/folders/0B7t_zmlh9Yo_UVB3cWw3dUFyQ0U

  2. http://teachplus.org/sites/default/files/publication/pdf/teachers_teaching.pdf

  3. Meier, E., (2015). Beyond a Digital Status Quo: Reconceptualizing Online Learning Opportunities. Bank Street Occasional Paper Series: Constructivist Online: Reimagining Progressive Practice Issue. New York, NY: Bank Street College.