BLOG: War on Education
By: Michael Riccardi
During his State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo proposed to increase state aid to education by $1.1 billion. To the average citizen who has an interest in public education, this sounds great, but teachers and parents across Central New York are hosting forums and rallies in opposition to the governor’s budget. Why? Stipulations.
Cuomo is threatening to withhold approximately 75% of the funds if schools don’t comply with his reforms. He wants 50% of the teacher evaluation rating to be based off of standardized testing, as opposed to the current level of 20%. Also, teachers would need more “highly effectual” ratings on the evaluations to receive tenure, and could be fired after two “ineffectual rating.” Educators and administrators have been begging for more funding for years, but they do not welcome it under the governor’s terms.
Cuomo feels that New York’s education system and teachers are failing. However, many in education find the fault in the state testing regimen, not the teachers themselves.
The Common Core testing is too difficult for young children to sit through for hours on end. They are being tested on material, that according to new curriculum, they should have learned in years prior, but they didn’t since it was not part of the curriculum at the time. Teachers spend the entire year preparing for the test material, instead of actually teaching the kids the subject at hand. Children of different learning abilities should not be tested on the same level as their peers who are on different levels. And, most importantly, a child should not feel defined by their test score.
Does New York state education need to do better? Yes. Should it always strive to be the best in the nation? Of course. But this is not the way to go about it. Common Core was a great idea in theory, but the execution and lack of funding have skewed it in the wrong direction.
If Governor Cuomo really cared about the state of public education and wanted to properly fund it, he wouldn’t need to add an additional $1.1 billion. He could simply sign legislation to effectively end the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA).
Enacted for the 2009-2010 school year, the GEA was used as a means to close the state budget deficit. Using a formula, the state would calculate how much state aid they were going to take back from each district in order to meet the state’s needs. Over its 5 years, the GEA has taken back nearly $9 billion, so you can see why the $1.1 billion the governor is offering now would seem inefficient. The GEA has caused schools to cut personnel (i.e. teachers, administrators, support staff) and programs (i.e. art, music, sports, clubs). Currently, there are bills in both the Assembly and the Senate to end the GEA.
On top of that, a property tax cap was added to the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Again, using a formula, the state calculates a limit to how much a district can raise their property tax. If the district wants to tax above the capped percent, they must reach a super majority of yes votes at 60 percent. In most cases, the taxing below the cap is not enough to prevent further cuts. Schools must now walk the line of raising taxes or cutting staff and programs, both of which are unfavorable to citizens.
Leaders of public forums and discussions across the state are urging people to act to end the GEA. They feel that there is no longer a need for it, as the state has passed four on-time budgets, while reporting a surplus. The goal is to educate the public on what is happening. To them, the next step is to spread the news and demand action.