State Budget A Mixed Bag For Our Schools

A legislative column by Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square)

Heading into this year’s final state budget deliberations, education was the hot-button issue. As we voted today to enact a budget, I feel we made some positive strides toward real reform, but missed an opportunity to really correct the flaws in our state’s education system.

I was pleased to see real steps taken toward restoring the devastating Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cuts from the 2010-11 budget. These cuts caused an increased reliance on property tax revenue and impinged our schools’ abilities to meet state mandates and preserve valuable programs. By fulfilling our promise and restoring this aid, our schools can stop operating on shoestring budgets and afford the resources they need to provide our children with the education they deserve. What’s missing, however, is a multi-year plan to phase out the GEA, which would provide needed predictability for our school districts.

While this budget addressed Common Core in a cursory manner, it fails to provide the flexibility our districts need. The budget fails to give parental control over their children’s private information, fails to put an end to the high-stakes testing that has caused so much student anxiety and fails to give our teachers the ability to meet the individual needs of their students. While steps were taken toward helping ESL and special-needs students in terms of ending inappropriate testing, we must do more to adjust the curriculum and pace of instruction to ensure these students aren’t left behind.

While steps were taken to correct the many flaws in Common Core, we must go further in enhancing the quality of our children’s education. As we move past the budget and go through the rest of the 2014 Legislative Session, this remains my top priority.