The Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education hosted a New York State Legislators’ Forum on Friday at the .
Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblymen Harvey Weisenberg, Edward Ra and Brian Curran met with school district representatives to discuss the challenges facing public schools on Long Island.
Board members, school district administrators, and PTA representatives from 11 local school districts attended the forum. Participating districts included: Baldwin, East Rockaway, Hewlett-Woodmere, Lawrence, Long Beach, Lynbrook, Valley Stream #13, Valley Stream #24, Valley Stream #30, Rockville Centre, and West Hempstead.
“It is imperative to continue the conversation between state and local officials and the school districts they serve to ensure that the needs of students and community members are adequately represented,” said Hewlett-Woodmere Superintendent Dr. Joyce M. Bisso. “Long Island school districts are united in that we all face the same obstacle of being required to do much more, with significantly less funding from the government. In that scenario, it is the students who suffer most.”
Board Member Scott McInnes presented a “real-life” scenario for the legislators regarding the impact of the numerous new unfunded mandates from the state and county on local school districts. In the case of Hewlett-Woodmere, these unfunded mandates account for more than 88 percent of the district’s total budget increase for the 2012-2013 school year.
“It is important for our local officials to see first-hand just how these ongoing unfunded mandates affect our most precious commodity, the students,” he said. “The state and county continue to burden districts with these required initiatives with no assistance to fund them, and there is no end in sight.”
McInnes also appealed to the legislators to restore more than $16 million in funding that was taken away from the school districts present at the forum under the GAP Elimination Adjustment several years ago.
Representatives from all the districts present also addressed the senator and assemblymen with similar issues regarding unfunded mandates, including the new teacher and principal evaluation system; the negative impact of cutting staff, programs, and services; restoration of funds eliminated under GAP Adjustment; the costs of special education services; and the undermining of the mission of public education in New York State.
The legislators actively listened and were responsive to the dialogue. Skelos, Weisenberg, Ra and Curran thanked the representatives present and requested that the districts form specific recommendations. A follow-up meeting was tentatively scheduled for October 2012.