By Kara Kane
Since becoming a School Board member, I’ve had a crash course in the financial, instructional, regulatory and political aspects of New York State’s education system. This list outlines a sample of my observations. If New York State was serious about education …
• New regulations for reporting, school safety, training and instruction would come in two flavors: fully funded and optional.
• Languages other than English would begin in early elementary grades, not middle school. Research shows that when it comes to learning a foreign language, younger is better.
• The governor’s budget would not use state aid as a weapon to punish low-performing, high-poverty districts while rewarding high-performing, affluent communities.
• Board of Regents’ appointees would have a background in public education, not philanthropy, politics, law or private education.
• The education commissioner would have unquestioned experience in public education – or enough to qualify for a permanent teaching certificate in New York State.
• District administrators would be encouraged – not mandated – to spend more time mentoring teachers, collaborating with other administrators and working with students than they do dealing with regulations.
• Appointees of the state Education Department would be required to work as substitute teachers or aides, at no cost to a district, for one week each year. They would teach in districts that are bordering on insolvency, or saddled with high turnover, or in high-crime neighborhoods.
• Full-day prekindergarten would become a standard. Investing in social skills and basics like letters and numbers sets children up for success.
• Instead of paying lip service to the “career” part of “college- and career-ready,” New York would invest in programs that educate students for jobs. Our districts cannot innovate with career programs because the money is already spent, and if a program isn’t mandated, it doesn’t have a chance.
• “Achievement” would be reframed to incorporate accomplishments beyond test taking and memorization.
• Elected and appointed state officials would be required to send their school-age children to a public school. If they prefer a private school, make them pay a sizable fee each year and submit paperwork that justifies why public school is not a good choice.
Some may call these suggestions wishful thinking. I would rather pin my children’s educational future on wishful thoughts than the empty promises of this state’s politicians and policy makers.
Kara Kane is a School Board member in the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District. She does not speak for the board or the district.