Ra, Graf & Colleagues Call For More High School Diploma Options

March 4, 2016

Assemblyman Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) and Assemblyman Al Graf (R,C,I-Holbrook) hosted an education forum on Thursday in the Hauppauge Legislative Auditorium sponsored by their Long Island Assembly Minority colleagues to discuss growing concerns over the lack of diploma options for high school students in New York State.

“We need to ensure there are alternatives beyond Regents testing to enable students to move on to higher education and their future careers,” said Ra. “It is very important that we address the concerns surrounding this very real problem for many high school students. I hope that with the support of my colleagues and input from members of our community, we can make sure the options for New York students are no longer limited.”

“New York State is leaving too many students behind,” said Graf. “The state requires all students to get a Regents Diploma and some students aren’t able to reach that goal. There was a time when the state offered the option of a general diploma, as well as a Regents Diploma. Students had the option of a career track as well as a college track. We had auto-shops, wood-shops, electric-shops, LPN programs, and many other viable options focusing on the trades and other vocational options. The state’s overt interference with public education has made a mess out of creating an individualized and healthy educational experience for many of our students. We need to get back to what works and get government out of our classrooms.”

“Providing an alternative track for our young adults exiting high school is crucial for guiding them toward success,” said Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R,C,I-South Huntington). “It is all about finding the right fit, and for some that is not the normal college route. Not everyone has the same desire to attend college, and if they’ve already decided on a career that can be learned through a BOCES or alternative schooling program, we should encourage that.”

“We must be sensitive to the needs of all students,” said Assemblyman Joseph Saladino. “We have to listen to the stakeholders and create pathways to success for all. Offering an alternative diploma option is especially helpful to students with special needs who will be more prepared to successfully find employment and be an asset to both the business world and themselves once they possess a high school diploma.”

“Education will never work with a one-size-fits-all approach, and ignoring the value of technical and labor career tracks breeds exclusivity instead of encouragement. It’s not fair to students who fulfill their high school course requirements, wish to enter the workforce, and are denied that opportunity for failing a Regents test,” said Assemblyman Dave McDonough (R,C,I-Merrick).

“Those who are successful in completing high school should have the opportunity to further their education in ways other than the typical college path,” said Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport). “The skills for certain professions can’t be learned at your regular four-year university, so programs such as BOCES are crucial. These trade schools do wonders in providing an alternative option for our determined young adults.”

"It's very important for us to listen and get input from educators and parents to ensure that we are giving our students not only the best education possible, but also offering the most useful pathways for a successful future,” said Dean Murray (R,C,I-East Patchogue).

“This program would provide students with additional paths toward obtaining their high school diploma while also preparing them with real world experience and job-specific skill sets. It is a great initiative and I hope our colleagues in the Assembly Majority will take action to consider creative proposals like these as we continue to improve education across our state,” said Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R,C,I-East Meadow).

“Not every student wants or needs to pursue the path to college and we need to consider every alternative avenue to success,” said Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R,C-New Suffolk). “By listening to the public's ideas and comments, we will be better suited to foster and fund those alternative educational pathways for the success of all our students’ futures.”

“We need to clear the pathway for students who wish to pursue career and technical training by reinstating the career and technical education diploma that should have equal footing with the Regents Diploma,” said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown). “Highly-skilled workers like welders, machinists, electricians and other vocationally-skilled tradespeople are in high demand. They are needed in the growing hi-tech and manufacturing industries. New York should be supporting this, giving more of our young people a solid career path in these sectors.”

“This is a very important issue affecting many individuals, parents, and children throughout our community. We must be able to streamline and facilitate a way for all students, especially those with special needs, to be able to receive a non-Regents New York State Diploma,” said Assemblyman Brian Curran (Lynbrook – 21st A.D).

“It is critical that this year we address the lack of diploma options for graduates in New York State,” said Assemblyman Montesano (R,C,I-Glen Head). “Our student population is very unique, and we need to make sure each of them is provided with the options they need to be successful.”

Several school board presidents, superintendents and parents provided testimony at the event about the need for further diploma options for New York’s students including Mrs. Susan Schnebel, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendent Association and Dr. Robert Dillon, Superintendent of Nassau County BOCES.

“Although there are more options for graduation, they are not all inclusive. In particular, with the absence of an RCT, some special needs students are not afforded the opportunity to earn a well-deserved high school diploma,” said Schnebel.

The event is part of a larger effort to reform education in New York State.