Expanding Pre-K Among Education Reform Panel's Suggestions

9:59 AM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- A panel of education experts on Wednesday presented to Gov. Andrew Cuomo a series of recommendations for reforming New York's public education system, including suggestions to expand pre-kindergarten programs and consolidate schools and districts to save money.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the report

Cuomo, who formed the commission last April to brainstorm the state's reform efforts, called the panel's recommendations "very well done, exciting, bold," although they'll be politically controversial and expensive to implement.

New York spends more money per student than any other state, but produces relatively low graduation and college- and career-readiness rates.

The Education Reform Commission's eight preliminary recommendations, which they presented at a governor's cabinet meeting at the Capitol, were developed after the group held 11 public hearings around the state.

At the meetings, which began in July, education officials from each region offered testimony on problems facing New York's students and how the state could help boost quality and effectiveness.

"The education bureaucracy has been running the education program, and the students got lost," Cuomo said, discussing the current state of public schooling in New York. "The education system is about the student. You have to flip the dynamic from making it work for the bureaucracy to making it work for the customer."

Cuomo said at the cabinet meeting he would consider the recommendations for inclusion in his State of the State speech Jan. 9, through which he will lay out his agenda for the year. He said Wednesday that he agreed that many of the panel's recommendations would be effective.

The governor said he agreed "100 percent" that expanding pre-K would be the right move, but he was not sure whether it would be financially possible.

He also expressed support for the recommendation that the state expands either the school day or year or both, but that the change would be "highly controversial, as well as expensive."

Among the other recommendations were to build "community schools," where students can come for education as well as other services, such as health care; to pursue cost savings by consolidating districts and creating regional high schools and to enhance use of technology in the classroom.

The commission, which includes state Education Commissioner John King and State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, will present a final report in the fall.

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