New York schools may soon undergo a transformation, with extended learning time, higher-paid “master teachers,” and full-day pre-kindergarten programs in high-need communities, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor’s plan, based largely on a report from the New York Education Reform Commission, also calls for integrating social and health services through community schools, and recruiting higher-performing teachers.
In his 2013-2014 budget proposal, Cuomo allocated 4.4 percent more aid to schools (an increase of $889 million, bringing total school aide to $20.8 billion), while keeping state spending growth under 2 percent and not raising taxes. Last year, he successfully increased school aid by 4.1 percent.
Although New York spends more per student than any other state ($18,618 per pupil, compared to the national average of $10,615), New York’s overall performance levels trail the rest of the nation. And students are not all adequately prepared for college and career, with more than one in four failing to graduate on time, if at all. “The next generation of New York’s students will not be able to compete in the global economy unless we dramatically reform our schools,” said Richard Parsons, chair of the Education Reform Commission, in a statement.
Cuomo plans to fund many of the initiatives, including the extended class time and increased pre-kindergarten, with a competitive grants system, and allocated $75 million of the school aid increase for these grants. This means that districts would have to apply for grant money, and not all would receive it, which is cause for concern, says Barbara Bradley, director of communications and research at the New York State School Boards Association, which represents 700 school boards statewide. Also, “if you start a full day pre-K program with grant money, what happens when the money runs out?” she says. The district would have to find funding on its own, she adds, and cut other programs.
Other states will look to New York’s education programs, Bradley says, and possibly implement similar reforms. “We’re all looking at each other, especially as money gets tighter and tighter—we’re all seeking ways to do more with less.”