State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa testified before the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday Feb. 8, where she stressed the importance of early childhood education, advanced high school classes and vocational programs.
This was the third of the New York State Legislature’s 2023 Joint Budget hearings, which focused on issues related to elementary and secondary education.
Rosa fielded questions from senators and assembly members during the first several hours of the hearing.
Assembly Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein, a Brooklyn Democrat, joined by Senator Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, led the hearing.
Rosa described the allocation of funds behind her budget request and the priorities for New York’s education system and its students.
She spoke of five areas in need of further aid, the first being the pursuit of universal early childhood programs across the state. The goal of providing access to “high-quality early learning experiences that are culturally, linguistically, and developmentally sound” should be provided to all 4-year-olds by 2030 and to all 3-year-old students by 2035 is one that many senators and Assembly members responded to during the hearing.
Out of the $25 million allocated to Pre-K programs for four-year-olds outside of New York City in the 2022-2023 school year, Rosa stated that $12 million was left on the table “because it’s such a nightmare to get through.” The complexity of the structures and rules surrounding distributing funding provides barriers to using the financial aid to its fullest extent.
Along with the funds not being properly distributed, the formula in which families are considered applicable for this financial help needs reform. This sentiment was shared by Assemblyman Doug Smith, R-Holbrook, saying “the formula [for universal pre-k] is broken.”
To combat these obstacles, the Board of Regents aims to reform the funding formula and streamline the process, ”making it easier for school districts and community-based organizations to be able to administer them.”
Another well-communicated point between the senators, assembly people and Rosa is the potential advancement and further development of high school and pre-college programs, including BOCES and CTE (Career Technical Education). These career pathways are instrumental in aiding students on the journey to further education outside of the “traditional” path.
Addressing the previous salary cap on BOCES teachers that might prevent the guidance of students to its greatest potential, Rosa introduced steps to “significantly increase program aids,” and have funding for early college and pre-tech programs be combined, proposing programs that directly relate to the region.