Regent James Tallon will not seek another term on New York state’s education policymaking body, he told Chalkbeat this week, opening up an empty spot on the board and continuing the transformation of the 17-member group.
“I have told the Senate and Assembly that I don’t intend to seek a fourth term on the board,” Tallon said. “I’ve really enjoyed my 15 years of service and this is largely a personal decision.”
Tallon, a former state assemblyman who chaired the Regents’ budget committee, led discussions about ensuring all schools, particularly high-needs schools, have the resources necessary to improve. Though budgetary power rests with the legislature, Tallon is well-versed in school funding and has been a strong advocate for the Regents’ agenda, said Peter Goodman, who attends the Regents meetings and writes a blog about New York state education policy.
That loss is particularly important this year, since Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed significant and controversial changes to the way the state funds schools, drawing ire from several education advocacy groups, he said.
With Tallon’s term finishing at the end of March, the state legislature will appoint a new member.
“He’s not replaceable,” Goodman said. “He knows all the ins and outs of the budget and he’s very, very well regarded by the legislature.”
Chancellor Betty Rosa said Tallon has made “vast and substantial contributions” to the board.
“His knowledge, decorum and counsel have proven invaluable to the Board time and time again,” Rosa said.
Tallon’s departure comes in the aftermath of other major transitions on the board. The Regents gained seven new members in the last two years and elected a new chancellor in March — ushering in a shift in the dynamics and policy direction of the board. It has, in general, moved away from the learning standards and teacher evaluation system ushered in under Chancellor Merryl Tisch. Those changes were partially responsible for an opt-out movement that spread to one in five New York families.
Tallon said the most important lesson he learned during his time on the board is that big changes take time.
“The controversies that sprang up about all those things, I think, in many respects were influenced by the speed with which we attacked all those issues,” Tallon said. “It is an enormously complicated space and making changes is, to some extent, moving a battleship on the ocean.”
Tisch voiced a similar sentiment when she stepped down last year. Tallon said he sees promise in the way the board is now looking to implement a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which allows the state to redesign how it measures and intervenes in schools.
The state’s education commissioner praised Tallon’s work and service to the Board of Regents.
“It is hard to imagine a more thoughtful, intelligent and forceful advocate for New York’s students, parents and educators than Regent Jim Tallon,” said State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a statement. “I thank him for his decades of service to the people of New York. He will be sorely missed by all of us at the Education Department and the Board of Regents.”