New York Education Investment Must Focus On The Needs Of All Students

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I,Ref-Newport)
February 13, 2018

I am convinced that New York has some of the best and brightest students in the nation. However, New York State is constantly making a challenge out of their education. Reviewing the governorís budget proposal, I am pleased to see a school aid increase of $651.4 million. Yet, I see several areas where there is room for improvement in our policies.

New York must invest in the education of children from kindergarten to 12th grade, but we must review why students arenít finding the success that they all deserve. Despite the fact that New York is ranked highest in terms of education spending, we only have just over a 78 percent graduation rate, which is roughly 4 points lower than the national average. Also, less than 40 percent of our students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the English language art proficiency, and just 40 percent met or exceeded the stateís math proficiency standards. It has been a tumultuous several years for our education community with state education policies interfering with the education of our children.

I believe in creating opportunities for children. The budget proposal includes measures to expand advanced placement for low-income students and early college initiatives in high-needs schools, but does not do enough to support and expand the interest and student success in BOCES and career-vocational programs. One of the greatest needs in the workforce is highly-skilled workers knowledgeable in electrical, machining and other technical skills.

Iíve always advocated for investment in our schools and more grass-roots governing of our educational institutions. I know that educators and administrators on the ground working with students and parents have the best grasp of what works for their school. I encourage the state to take this approach as well.

Additionally, I am concerned by the governorís cuts to our local libraries. In his proposal he would cut $4 million in library aid. Libraries are invaluable local institutions of early education, educational support and continued education for adults. I find his annual efforts to cut aid to our local libraries troubling.

Lastly, as Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, I am making it my priority to fight for better funding for our local community colleges. I have been advocating for an update to the aid formula per student funding or a more stable funding source for our community colleges. These important centers for higher-education offer training and associates degrees, and help many to later pursue a four-year degree. They play an important role in serving our rural communities and students of all backgrounds. Furthermore, community colleges are an economic benefit to a region. Herkimer College, for example, has an estimated $75 million impact on Herkimer County.

Throughout our negotiations we must remember that education is for people of all abilities and backgrounds. Those in pursuit of bettering themselves through education have my support, and I will be fighting for our state spending to reflect the needs for all varieties of students.

I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Please contact me by emailing me at butlerm@nyassembly.gov or by calling my Herkimer District Office at 315-866-1683.