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Cuomo: ‘Improved’ schools must go back on receivership list

Just when some schools thought they had cleared the threat of a takeover, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state could withhold funding for struggling schools if he and the legislature cannot agree on which ones should be taken away from the local school district.

The state receivership law, which went into effect last year, identified schools that failed to meet state standards for a certain number of years. The original list included 25 schools in Buffalo that faced a takeover if they failed to show improvement in a year or two.

But then in February – less than a year after the new law went into effect – the state education department announced that 70 schools originally targeted for a takeover would be removed from the list. Those schools were apparently removed because they had made progress under the state’s previous accountability system, which set the framework for receivership.

In a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board Wednesday, Cuomo criticized the removal of schools from the list and accused the state education department of deliberately altering it to avoid any schools being taken over by an outside entity.

“Nobody likes the idea of receivership,” he said, adding that if those schools are not put back on the receivership list, the state may withhold promised funding.

“We have to restore it; otherwise, there will be no funding,” he said.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia last week also expressed concerns that schools were taken off the list, but she said the decision was driven by the language in the legislation.

“I wasn’t here when the law was put in place,” said Elia, who has been education commissioner since July. “I would have raised some concern at the time on the schedule. I also would have been very focused on how it is a school gets on and gets off.

“But in my position,” she added, “there’s a law. That’s what I have to follow – and I did.”

email: tlankes@buffnews.com