Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 11, 2013

Governor's education proposals draw support, concern

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Educators who favor lengthening the time students spend in school welcomed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's support in his State of the State address this week but lamented a plan to fund it through competitive grants that would limit the number of students who'd benefit.

"These are important programs and we really should look to find a way to develop a stable, sustainable revenue stream ... so that all districts can participate in those important programs and not just a select few," said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.

Cuomo on Wednesday proposed picking up the costs for districts that extend learning time by at least 25 percent with longer school days or years. He also backed the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten programs beginning in higher needs districts.

"When it comes to education, I say two words: More and better," Cuomo said.

He did not say how much money he would make available for grants. The governor's budget proposal is due Jan. 22.

"He points out Massachusetts, where these extended days have been very successful," said Michael Rebell, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for Educational Equity. "Well if that's true, then how do you give it to 10 percent or whatever percent of the kids are going to get it through competitive grants? Why shouldn't all the kids get it?"

Cuomo has included competitive grants in two previous budgets to encourage districts to improve management efficiency and student performance.

Superintendent James Bodziak said his Frontier Central School District in suburban Buffalo would be interested in expanding its universal pre-kindergarten program, but he's looking for assurances the money will last before deciding whether to pursue a grant.

"Is it going to be funded for years and years or is it just funded for the first couple of years and then, like many things, the money is pulled away and now we're either going to have to sustain it by ourselves or we have to eliminate the program?" he asked.

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