Saturday, January 19, 2013

Urgent education reform absent from State of the State

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address last week and is expected to present his Executive Budget early next week.

In his State of the State, the governor made “jobs and education” a focal point of his blueprint for economic development and recovery in the state. He also spoke about a number of worthwhile education reforms for New York (one of which was early childhood education that I’m proud to say our district already provides with our UPK program). The governor spent roughly 7 minutes of an hour-plus speech outlining recommendations for improving K-12 education in the state, but interestingly, gave little indication as to how these many reforms would be funded.

What is even more concerning is the lack of attention Gov. Cuomo has paid to another significant and more pressing reform: fixing the state’s flawed state aid formulas that result in inequitable distribution of funding to the small city schools and rural districts that need it most.  

A high quality education is important to our state’s prosperity, our country’s future—but equally as important, it is vital for the success of the children in this district and across the state. As superintendent of the Watervliet City School District, my priority remains our district’s ability to provide a high quality educational programs that will help students achieve their goals—whether it be attaining higher education, pursuing a career path or both. 

Given the state’s deficit and the anemic economic recovery, I recognize that state leaders are in no position to offer schools more in the way of funding, but they can and should change the formulas to fix the glaring inequities in the allocation of state aid. Our state leaders must also tackle the issue of unfunded mandates that are crippling our ability in Watervliet—and in many other school districts across the state—to preserve the academic programs students need in order to be college and career ready upon graduation.

If these issues go unresolved, our district and others will continue to move closer to insolvency. If you value education as I do, I strongly encourage you to help advocate for our schools. Watervliet has assembled a stakeholder team and will join with 46 other Capital Region school districts for a regional advocacy event featuring Dr. Rick Timbs of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, to learn about the severity of the fiscal crisis that is looming for schools throughout our area and what we, as a community, can do to have our voices heard and advocate for solutions. The forum, 'Your Schools in Fiscal Peril - Running Out of Time & Options,' will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 at Columbia High School in East Greenbush. I encourage you to call my office at 629-3201 if you are interested in participating in the Jan. 31 event or just want more information about how you can help advocate for education and our schools.

The entire WCSD staff, Board of Education and I will continue to fight to preserve programs and people that will afford our students the top-notch education they are entitled to. We will advocate for every student, every day.

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