News from the Associated Press - March 11, 2014

Associated Press
March 11, 2014

Skorton named new head of Smithsonian

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Smithsonian Board of Regents has named Dr. David Skorton to lead the world's largest museum and research complex in Washington.

The governing board announced its selection Monday after a closely guarded six-month search.

Skorton, the president of Cornell University and a cardiologist, will replace Secretary Wayne Clough (cluff), who plans to retire in October after six years. The 64-year-old will be the first physician to lead the organization and its 13th secretary since 1846. For much of its history, the Smithsonian has been led by scientists.

Clough announced his retirement plans in September. He was previously the president of the Georgia Institute of Technology for 14 years.

The Smithsonian includes 19 museums based primarily on the National Mall, the National Zoo and nine research facilities around the world.


Regents members in jeopardy because of Common Core

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A usually routine re-election vote for four members of the State Board of Regents has taken on drama amid widespread furor over the rollout of tough new academic standards.

Lawmakers facing elections this year are feeling the heat from parents and educators on Common Core, a tougher curriculum standard in English and math designed to improve students' college and career readiness. Teachers have said they weren't given sufficient material and guidance to teach the new Common Core standards.

The Regents oversee state educational policy. They are chosen by the majority of the state's 63 senators and 150 Assembly members, meaning 107 votes are needed.

Democrats in control of the Assembly typically control the vote, but because of vacancies only have 99 seats.


NY Senate and Assembly vote on Regents members

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Legislature is scheduled to vote on whether to re-elect four Board of Regents members amid drama over the Common Core rollout.

Common Core is a curriculum standard in English and math designed to improve students' college and career readiness. Teachers say they weren't given sufficient material and guidance to teach the new standards.

Incumbent Regents and their challengers need 107 votes from the Senate and Assembly to win on Tuesday. Democrats in control of the Assembly typically control the vote but because of vacancies only have 99 seats.

Richard Ianuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union, welcomes the challengers. He says the education policy-setting Board of Regents needs a new perspective.

Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.


Rochester teachers union sues over evaluations

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The Rochester teachers union is suing the state and school district over state-mandated performance reviews.

The Rochester Teachers Association says New York's Board of Regents, state Education Department and district didn't account for Rochester's nearly 90 percent student poverty rate when it graded teachers last year. The lawsuit says that since poorer kids do worse on the state tests used in performance evaluations, the process was unfair.

About a third of the teachers in the upstate district were rated "developing" or "ineffective," compared to 5 percent statewide.

State officials have said that the teacher evaluation formula accounts for wealth differences by measuring student growth on tests against similarly situated students.

An education department spokesman, citing policy, declined comment on the lawsuit.Teachers receiving two consecutive "ineffective" ratings can be fired.


Governor Cuomo's panel looks into Common Core implementation

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Governor Andrew Cuomo's panel looking into the implementation of Common Core education standards is recommending caps on how much instructional time is used to take and prepare for standardized tests. The commission yesterday also recommended that lawmakers bar standardized "bubble tests" through second grade.


NY going after STAR double dippers

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York is going after "double dippers" who file for the state's STAR property rebate program while living in rent-regulated apartments.

People who lease rent-regulated apartments cannot have another home as their primary residence, and people can only claim their primary residence for a STAR rebate.

Cuomo administration officials said Monday that 156 duplicate names were found after rent-regulation records were cross-checked against the STAR registration system. State housing and tax officials sent letters giving those people 60 days to correct their records or risk having the information provided to their landlords.

New York last year required homeowners to re-register for the local school tax breaks because of reports of widespread abuse and fraud.


NY comptroller: Housing cost pinch worsening

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says housing costs are becoming unaffordable for millions of New Yorkers amid declining incomes and increasing costs for rent and home ownership.

DiNapoli says Monday that analysis of census data shows median statewide monthly housing costs increased by 18.6 percent for renters and 9.9 percent for homeowners from 2000 to 2012. During the same time, homeowners' median household income decreased 1.6 percent and renters' median household income dropped 7.1 percent.

Affordable housing is defined by the federal government as being below 30 percent of household income. DiNapoli says more than 3 million households statewide paid at least 30 percent of their 2012 income for a place to live.

Although incomes and housing costs are generally higher in the New York City area, DiNapoli says housing affordability is a statewide issue.


Around NY, public transit usage on the rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Ridership on public transportation systems around New York state is on the rise. That mirrors a trend being seen across the country.

The American Public Transportation Association released the data from the nation's transit systems on Monday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority had an increase in riders from 2012 to 2013 on New York City subways and buses, as well as on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad commuter lines.

Increases in ridership were also seen on the public transportation system in Albany and on buses in the Ithaca area. But the system in Buffalo saw a ridership decrease over the last year.

Nationally, there were 10.7 billion trips on trains, subways and buses. The association says that's the highest total since 1956.



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