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Image from Governor Andrew Cuomo's presentation, highlighting education. (Photo: NYS Governor's Office)
Image from Governor Andrew Cuomo's presentation, highlighting education. (Photo: NYS Governor's Office)

Cuomo education plans "interesting" and "laughable"

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Education was a major focus in Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State speech Wednesday. He wants more schooling, and better teaching - and he announced his plans for New York schools for the coming year. North Country school leaders say Cuomo has some interesting ideas, but they don't make sense without increased funding.

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Julie Grant
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Governor Cuomo says the state has an historic responsibility to improve New York schools.

 "Governor Seward said the standard of education ought to be elevated.  Education is the chief of our responsibilities.  He said that in 1839.  It is true today."

The education proposals in Cuomo's state of  the state address are focused in two areas.

"When it comes to education, I have two words, more and better."

By "more" school, Cuomo means expanding Pre-Kindergarten to a full 5-hour day in the neediest schools.  And for the older students, extending the school day and / or the year. 

"We need more education time, my friends, if we really are serious about education."

"The advantages of more education are clear.  When you look internationally, the countries that are beating us educate their children more.  Just more days of education."

And Cuomo plans to pay for an increase in schooling.

"Our proposal is you make we, the state, makes it an option for every school district if they want to opt in, and how they want to opt in.  Longer day, longer year, combination.  It's up to them.  If they do it, the state will pay 100-percent of the cost to give them an incentive to actually do it."

Canton Central Schools board of education president Barbara Beekman sat at home, listening to the speech.  She's glad Cuomo isn't shirking the state's responsibility to schools.  And she agrees that more schooling could be great for students.  But not in districts like Canton, where they've cut so many teachers and non-mandated classes in recent years.  If the school day were longer, students would just be sitting around.  They already don't have enough elective classes to fill the day.

"I don't see, at the point where we've cut so many electives, and kids have so many study halls, in the future will have so many study halls, the point of having a longer day is - laughable."

"It's not that we don't think there's things we could be teaching, we can't afford them."

When it comes to Cuomo's plan to expand Pre-K, Beekman says Canton can't afford that either, and plans to greatly reducing its Pre-K. 

Cuomo announced other plans to try to make schools better.  He wants the best teachers to get bonus checks of $15-thosuand dollars.  Beekman says it's an interesting idea, but again, in districts that are cutting teachers, there's no money for that.

And Canton is far from alone.  The New York State Council of School Superintendents says that while the Governor has some good ideas, the financial prospects for schools are dire.

Republican Assembly member Ken Blankenbush of Black River says he's disappointed the Governor didn't address these underlying funding issues.

"I thought we had talked a lot to the governor, to the governor's office about how we  need in upstate, rural school districts, some help.  He didn't really address any of  those issues that I believe will be a priority."

Education leaders are now looking to Cuomo's budget proposal in the coming weeks, to see if he addresses the core funding issues.




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