New York Supers Fear Financial Burden of New Academic Reqs

A recent poll of New York State Superintendents found that many fear their districts will be unable to continue functioning if they are forced to fund the whole slew of education mandates recently passed by the Legislature. More than 40% also say that as a consequence of the additional expense, they foresee their districts becoming insolvent in 2 to 4 years.

The poll, which was conducted by the New York State Council of School Superintendents, used the internet to ask the 249 superintendents working in the state their thoughts on implementing the student instruction mandates passed by the state. Among the respondants, 51% thought that their district will no longer be able to fund all the required programs within the next four years, while a smaller-yet-still-substantial 19% imagined an even shorter time horizon: they anticipated running out of money to cover everything in two years or less.

More than three-quarters of schools chiefs predict that their districts will, at some point, no longer be able to balance budgets to cover financial obligations — 9 percent foresee financial insolvency within two years, while 41 percent predict the same within four years.

The superintendents are reacting to a recent push by both the federal and the state government to add rigor to schools’ academic programs in order to ensure that students who graduate in NY schools won’t need remediation when they get to college. Although administrators salute these goals, they are less thrilled with the fact that they’ve been implemented as unfunded mandates. NYC Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky, addressing Governor Andrew Cuomo, said that additional money must be found if the districts are to fully implement the entirety of the new and more challenging academic program.

But affordability isn’t the only issue with the standards. As William Gotsch, a fourth grade teacher in Madrid-Waddington Central School, explained that the new academic standards make absolutely no allowances for the skill level of typical students at each stage of their academic development.

In the new tests, Mr. Gotsch said, fourth-graders will be expected to form algebraic equations from multi-step problems and calculate geometric angles at a level “too high for fourth-graders to complete.”

“I had an advanced eighth-grade student take the test. The student could not get through the first two questions,” Mr. Gotsch said.

Among those surveyed, it was the superintendents of the smallest districts that had the most worries about finding enough money to put all the new mandates into action. About a third described their financial situation as either poor or very poor, and more than half thought that in the next few years, they’ll be forced to raid their reserve funds to cover operating costs.

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