If you paid attention to the news three weeks ago, you heard about the historic increases in state aid to school districts on Long Island. If you read Newsday, then you might have seen a quote from yours truly: “It offers educators a historic opportunity to do things they could never do before to help all students succeed,” said Michael Cohen, a former Long Island school superintendent and academic analyst. “The question is, will the accountability be strict, and will they use the opportunity to do the right thing?”
First off, that’s the first time anyone referred to me as an “academic analyst.” My wife and kids found the description to be hysterical. I do not know why, but they did. One time, News 12 referred to me as an “education expert.” That was hilarious enough! My family ordered a coffee mug with my picture and the words “Education Expert” under my mug shot. (Bad joke) I do not consider myself to be much of an expert on anything, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.
On the serious side, the question I keep hearing is, “How will they spend all that money?” In Bay Shore, where we live, the district will receive an additional $11 million over last year’s state aid allocations hefty sum even by the standards of education spending on Long Island. A Bay Shore board of education member told me that the district’s proposed budget will include a 0% increase in taxes, which seems like proof positive that hell froze over. We all know about the inflation that we see every time we fill our gas tank, which makes us feel smart (or lucky) for buying a Tesla last year!
Now, the $11 million will more than cover the inflationary costs built into the budget, so what about the remainder? Great question! People ask me all the time how they can find the answer. Simple: Ask your board of education members and superintendents for a forensic accounting of the new spending. If you ask them for a “forensic accounting” they will get nervous, but who cares? The stated purpose of these increases in aid is help schools rebound from the instructional difficulties they confronted over the past two years.
The answer that you should receive is simple: The money is going into the classrooms. That means things like smaller class sizes, innovative programs, extended class time, classes after school, and classes during recesses. It should not mean generous increases in salary and benefits for central office administrators. It should not mean more administrative layers (positions). It should not mean jobs for family and friends of board of education members and central office administrators. Every study of educational improvement shows that the more time students spend in classrooms, the better they perform. Simple, right? That is the answer to the question that I keep hearing.
Start sending those emails and making those phone calls to your board of education members and your superintendents. Remember: They work for you…not the other way around.