The Times Union of Albany on tougher teacher evaluations (May 23) —So much for the quaint notion that top state officials and powerful teachers unions can be in surprising accordance over the very sensitive matter of evaluating teachers.
That harmony was shattered last week when the state Board of Regents hastily complied with Gov. Cuomo’s last-minute call for students’ performance on standardized tests to have much more bearing on how their teachers are graded.
The nagging question is whether this dramatic change, no matter how well-intentioned, was worth it — as either a matter of education policy or the source of political tensions that are simmering once again. ...
Brace for a contentious debate, then, New Yorkers. Even if the evaluation eventually is more accurate and fair than it had been, the much improved system in place now may be soon enough looked upon quite wistfully.
The Times Picayune, New Orleans, on emergency disaster loan forgiveness (May 24) — Officials in parishes across metro New Orleans and other parts of South Louisiana are seeking a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and FEMA to discuss forgiveness of emergency disaster loans made after the 2005 hurricanes. ...
When Biden announced the loan forgiveness in New Orleans last year, the White House said it would be “new procedures” for local governments “to apply for loan forgiveness” and that qualifying entities would have to demonstrate three years of operating losses after the storms.
But Sen. Mary Landrieu has correctly pointed out that FEMA’s deficit calculation includes all types of revenues but “cherry-picks the types of expenses that may be included.” She called it “inherently unsound,” and that’s right.
Louisiana is counting on Biden and President Barack Obama to fix it.
Northeast Miss Daily Journal, Tupelo, on federal disaster assistance (May 19) — The federal role in helping Mississippians cope with double natural disasters major tornado damage from April storms and massive flooding along the Mississippi River continues expanding as agencies join forces and the probability of special federal appropriations appears to be increasing. ...
The federal government, often criticized in a political context by many Mississippians, is indispensable for our state after its numerous natural disasters.
The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle, on how the state should involve public in budget talks (May 23) — For elected bodies, one or two duties generally rise to the top tier of importance. A school board’s most important responsibility? Hire a good superintendent. In municipalities, council members must give special attention to public safety and infrastructure.
A state legislature’s most important responsibility? It’s got to be the budget.
That is particularly true in financially troubled Illinois, with its record-setting billions of dollars in debt, deficits and unpaid bills. However, the General Assembly punted the last several years, approved a vague budget and gave Gov. Pat Quinn extraordinary powers to cut and allocate funds.
Not this year. The Legislature finally is shouldering its responsibilities. ... With more than two weeks remaining before the Legislature’s May 31 adjournment date, both houses had passed budgets.
The problem, of course, is Quinn. He is accustomed to having a lot more say in budgetary matters than lawmakers plan to give him this time around. Quinn wants to spend about a billion dollars more than the Senate plan and $2 billion more than the House.
... Now that the House and Senate have staked their positions, negotiations must take place quickly to reach a final compromise. That way, the public will have more time to scrutinize the budget and offer comments before final approval. ... After voting in January to impose the largest tax increase in state history, the Legislature has a moral obligation to allow more public input on how that money will be spent. Lawmakers must not shut the public out from their most important responsibility.