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Educators assess how funds announced in Cuomo budget will be designated

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CANTON - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s annual budget offered educators the promise of full-day prekindergarten and acknowledged the fears and anxiety about the implementation of the Common Core.

The executive budget calls for a two-year projected formula growth of 7 percent with $1.3 billion in general support, $75 million for performance programs, including teacher bonuses and technology improvements and $460 million for prekindergarten and after-school programs.

Jack J. Boak, superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said it would be wonderful to see full-day pre-K implemented across the state and to have increased aid to New York’s 700 school districts, but he said the “devil will be in the details.”

“There is a plan and they recognize the importance of early education,” Mr. Boak said. “It sounds like, just as he has done in past budgets, he is giving money but targeting how the schools can use it instead of increasing funds to how the school districts see fit.”

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, released a statement in response to the budget saying that after four years, the governor has failed to address the massive inequality in education between rich and poor schools.

“The governor likes to say that money does not matter in education, but we have a massive inequality in school spending,” Mr. Easton wrote. “The high spending in wealthy schools translates into marvelous educational programs and outstanding student results, but it does nothing to help students in high-needs districts. For that matter the governor’s budget would do nothing to help students in needy schools as they will be forced to make more classroom cuts.”

In his speech, Mr. Cuomo addressed what many educators felt like was the “elephant in the room” over the past year, the implementation of the Common Core. Mr. Cuomo said that while he supports the teaching of Common Core curriculum, “management of it by the Board of Regents has been flawed,” and he promised to assemble a panel to come up with corrective action.

“We will end the anxiety parents, teachers and students are feeling all across this state,” Gov. Cuomo said.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said in a statement, “To date, I have heard from hundreds of individuals who are concerned about Common Core and I was pleased to hear Governor Cuomo recognize that it’s time to take action on the implementation of this new curriculum. I’m hopeful that the panel of education experts and legislative leaders proposed by the Governor to discuss issues surrounding the Common Core will help to address the concerns of parents and educators.”

Mr. Boak said he understands a lot of the anxiety over how the program has been implemented, but the way it has been administered is based on the Race to the Top standards outlined in the government’s guidelines.

“It could have gone a little smoother; there could have been more staff development, but I don’t think the state had a choice,” Mr. Boak said. “We’re starting to see it take root now, but we all could use a little more time to see the program reach its potential.”

“The state now has at least a $500 million surplus. That and the personal income tax change calculated for schools would be half the lift for the total eradication of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The legislature, as it did last year, must add significantly to that amount,” Rick Timbs, executive director of Statewide School Finance Consortium, wrote. “If New York’s budget gap has been eliminated, the state MUST repay what it owes to our schools.”

Mr. Timbs wrote that New York school districts have collectively lost $8.4 billion in state aid since the GEA was implemented in the 2009-10 school year.

“The GEA was supposed to be a temporary fix — a remedy until there was no gap in the state budget. Now that the gap is gone, it’s time to get rid of the adjustment.”

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