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Educators skeptical about Cuomo’s reforms

Area school administrators grade governor’s education proposals

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “These aren’t new ideas, but the reason why they keep coming about is there hasn’t been a true commitment to change laws,” Robinson said. “Politicians often say the right things, but the question is if those things can come to a head.”

Robinson said extending the school day is a “good idea,” but in reality it won’t happen without increased state aid.

“If we were to extend the school day merely half-an-hour for each teacher, with the same compensation formula, we would have to increase our teacher compensation by 7 percent, which is almost $3.75 million,” Robinson said.

South Colonie Superintendent Jonathan Buhner echoed Robinson and said funding is integral to expanding learning opportunities.

“The problem I have with some of the suggestions he has is unless the gap elimination reduction is addressed, districts are going to be cutting many of the programs he is recommending,” Buhner said.

The state’s gap elimination adjustment has cut $3 billion from public schools, according to Buhner, and South Colonie schools have seen a reduction of around $9 million in state aid.

“A lot of those concepts he presented were sound … but unless we find a way in New York state to address the loss in state aid, I’m not sure how to get there,” Buhner said.

Bethlehem Central Superintendent Thomas Douglas was of the same mind.

“I feel the proposal is made with the best intentions, but needs to be carefully thought out in regard to cost and implementation,” Douglas said in an email. “We at Bethlehem Central School District would like nothing more than to accelerate our students’ learning and maximize time in classrooms, but I’m unsure of how this could be funded considering the current economic climate in New York state and beyond.”

Cuomo might have two words to describe his feelings on education, but Douglas had two words for Cuomo – mandate relief. Douglas said he is reaching out to local lawmakers for their support.

“I’ve reached out to Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb who has been a true leader on mandate relief with his Taxpayer Protection and Mandate Relief Act and other legislation, to help Bethlehem and other districts rally for mandate relief,” Douglas said.

As far as how school administrators would grade Cuomo, Douglas said he’d give him “a passing grade,” with Robinson and Buhner giving him a “C-“ and “C,” respectively.

“Right now, when you look at the inequity in funding it is hard to offer a higher grade,” Robinson said. “What has transpired with mandate relief is a huge F.”

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