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Education commissioner presses mergers, teacher evaluations

ALBANY –- The state’s education commissioner says there will be more pressure on school districts to more seriously merge and consolidate services as the gap is expected to steadily grow between district expenses and revenues, especially as a new property tax cap law kicks in this year.

"We’re very concerned about this," Commissioner John B. King told Senate and Assembly lawmakers this morning in the first hearing on the proposed 2012 budget by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

King presented lawmakers with a projection -– “Impact of caps on local and state revenues for school districts” –- showing by 2016 overall revenues for 700 districts rising to $62 billion but overall costs expected to hit $80 billion.

Noting that school districts cannot legally file for bankruptcy protection, King said the pressure will be on to realign how districts staff their schools. He said districts will likely have to consolidate and merge some services, not just with their neighbors but possibly across the county in which they are located. King said officials also are concerned about what he called an "educational insolvency" by some districts unable to offer a full slate of classes to prepare students for college or the workplace.

King also said the state needs to reduce the number of state-imposed mandates on school districts. The commissioner said the Regents will be pushing a new round of mandate relief in special education services and other categories.

King, who was the first witness in the budget hearing process, also touched on the thorny issue of teacher evaluations. The governor has threatened to hold back school aid funding to those districts that are unable to enact new teacher evaluation systems.

--Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

[email protected]


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

[email protected]


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | [email protected]


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | [email protected]

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