Governor Andrew Cuomo made some encouraging comments about education in his State of the State speech yesterday, but there are also some glaring concerns.
The centerpiece of the governor’s education proposals for 2014 is a $2 billion referendum that would go mainly toward a major upgrade of school technology: purchasing laptops, tablets, and wireless services. The plan needs the State Legislature’s approval and would then go before the voters.
But most districts already receive state funding for capital improvements, including technology upgrades. And as important as access to technology is to students today, technology-related initiatives have run into complications in some school districts. For instance, Los Angeles's effort to arm students with laptops and tablets was riddled with costly problems.
And the governor’s proposal for providing statewide full-day pre-K to all school districts is interesting, but where’s the money going to come from? Nothing in his speech indicated how much his proposal would cost or how he would suggest paying for it in the “no new taxes” environment — which made it sound ominously like an unfunded mandate.
But what is most striking is Cuomo's emphasis on closing the wealth achievement gap without spelling out how the state would approach this in New York's high-need districts, such as Rochester. Given the State Education Department’s attention to failing schools, teacher evaluations, and the Common Core curriculum standards — leaving out a plan for high-needs districts feels like a glaring omission.
Without some kind of plan that goes beyond rewarding teachers and opening more charter schools, it’s hard to see how significant improvements will come about in the state’s largest urban districts anytime soon.