Education is the key to American opportunity and Upstate New York’s future economic prosperity. New York cannot expect to remain competitive on a national or global scale without strengthening its public schools, community colleges and four-year institutions.
As Congress continues to consider an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), I believe it is critical that we review the burden placed on school districts and teachers by one-size-fits-all mandates. Measuring teachers’ effectiveness by simply using test scores makes it more difficult for school districts, particularly in rural areas, to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Teachers should be able to focus on an individual student’s strengths and weaknesses, rather than grouping students of varying abilities together. I’m pleased the Department of Education is acting to remove several of these burdensome requirements by allowing states to apply for waivers, and will continue working to help ensure common-sense NCLB reforms.
Last year, New York was also awarded nearly $700 million as a winner in the second round of the Race to the Top competition. I believe the State must do more to engage with local teachers, parents, principals, school boards and community stakeholders as these reforms are implemented. A bottom-up approach that incorporates the views of local communities is critical to ensuring that both educators and parents have a voice in the process.
I remain focused on the concerns of rural area schools, which frequently have greater needs and fewer resources, and that depend on federal formula funds from programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I support full funding for these formula-driven education programs that target schools serving disadvantaged students and the areas of greatest need.
On the college level, I believe local institutions of higher education can remain on the cutting edge of research and technology with continued support. I have visited many area colleges and universities, both SUNY and private, and have been impressed by what I have seen. Schools across the district offer training in emerging fields that will provide jobs and keep Upstate New York’s best and brightest at home. However, to have these programs in New York is not enough; we must also keep these programs affordable and rein in rising tuition costs.
Education is intricately tied to job creation and our ability to compete in an increasingly global market. Job creation and economic growth depends on a well-educated future workforce. I will continue to work with officials from state and local governments to ensure that schools and teachers have the right resources to prepare every student -- from kindergarten to college graduates -- for a prosperous life in New York.