There is a lot of education news today.
1. The Archdiocese of New York announced that eight more Catholic schools will close, following a familiar and very difficult trend of recent years. Dioceses across the country are struggling to find a way to keep Catholic education viable and accessible.
2. In the deeply troubled East Ramapo school district, the only two school board members who are not part of the Hasidic/Orthodox Jewish community both resigned unexpectedly. This development won’t help ease the growing distrust between the vast Hasidic/Orthodox community, which sends its children to private schools, and the largely poor public-school community, which often criticizes the leadership of its school board.
We did extensive interviews last spring with the two board members who resigned, Stephen Price and Suzanne Young-Mercer (that’s them). They were both deeply frustrated over having little influence on the board, but they seemed to be committed to seeing things through, a least for a while.
3. Gov. Cuomo released his budget proposal for 2013-14, which increased state aid for most local districts and set aside several chunks of money for various reforms, such as full-day pre-kindergarten for needy kids and longer school days or years for a few districts. This money will be divided up based on competitive grants.
Many educators don’t approve of the trend toward competitive grants. Lisa Davis, executive director of the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, told us so.
“The governor has acknowledged how important these types of programs can be for students in high-need areas, so why not make them available to all children in high-need districts, and not just to those in high-need districts that have gifted grant writers,” she said.
The NYS School Boards Association released the results today of a survey of school board members about certain reforms supported by Cuomo.
Some findings: 59 percent support a bar-type exam for teachers; 54 percent support a plan to allow citizens to petition the state to consolidate or regionalize school districts; 41 percent were unsure if their district would apply for a competitive grant to lengthen the school day or year.
Here is the NYSSBA’s press release, in full:
Nearly six in 10 school board members (59 percent) who responded to an informal poll by the New York State School Boards Association believe prospective teachers should have to pass a bar exam-type test before they enter the profession.
“School boards support efforts to improve teacher quality,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “While the details have to be worked out, there appears to be support for a bar exam-type initiative in education.” Thirty-two percent disagreed with the proposal, while nine percent were unsure.
In addition, more than half of school board members (54 percent) support the governor’s recommendation to allow citizens to petition the state to consolidate or regionalize school districts, according to the poll. Thirty-four percent oppose the proposal, while 12 percent were not sure.
“School boards often bring consolidation proposals forward only to have them rejected by the community,” added Kremer. “A proposal that allows residents to advance school consolidation or regionalization initiatives must be crafted very carefully so schools aren’t constantly reacting to initiatives that will ultimately not win widespread support in the community.”
The poll also found that 41 percent of school board members said they were unsure if their district would apply for a competitive grant to increase the length of the school day or year. One-third (34 percent) said their district would apply for a grant, and one-quarter (25 percent) said they would not.
“There appears to be a lot of uncertainty over whether to apply for a competitive grant to extend learning time,” Kremer said. “That uncertainty most likely stems from lacking resources for writing the grant, navigating the often thorny issues of negotiating an extra 25 percent learning time, and concerns over whether a district could sustain an extended learning program once the grant has expired.”
Results are based on more than 600 responses to a NYSSBA Pulse Poll of school board members conducted in January 2013.