Northeastern Clinton Central School Superintendent Peter Turner says mandate relief is needed in New York state.
Mandate relief is important, says Peter Turner, but he has not seen any evidence of it yet.
“Anything the state of New York could do to help us save costs would be a welcome benefit,” said the superintendent of Northeastern Clinton Central School. “But I have not noticed any significant mandate relief by the state of New York.”
New York is one of the most regulated states in the nation when it comes to public education. School officials often complain that when a new mandate is handed down, no money follows it, forcing the district to carry out the mandate and pick up the tab.
“Anything we wouldn’t have to do that we could save money on would be an advantage to the district,” Turner said.
But the most he notices when it comes to mandate relief is lip service.
“It has been a common mantra the last couple of years.”
He wishes it would go beyond the discussion phase, because, “There are all kinds of stipulations the state of New York puts on school districts, and probably there are several things we could do without.”
He’s heard talk of changing special-education mandates, many of which in New York state exceed federal requirements.
“It would be nice if they backed off to the federal requirement,” Turner said. “And if there is a mandate, give us time to budget for it. At least if we had the courtesy that here is a new requirement and it is going into effect the following year, that would give us time to budget for it.”
“That would be helpful,” agreed Northern Adirondack Central School Superintendent Laura Marlow.
With the new teacher evaluation system and federal Race to the Top initiative, it would be helpful to have some relief to meet those mandates, especially in the areas of testing and materials, she said.
“With the new state standards, all of our textbooks have to be aligned with the standards,” Marlow said. “Textbooks cost money.”
There is also talk of conducting computerized assessments, which would require schools to have more computers available.
All of this costs money, Marlow pointed out, and school districts are currently facing significant budget gaps. They are trying to maintain their existing programs.
“We need mandate relief,” Marlow said. “We need either the state putting money behind all of these initiatives or we need the state to not have such a tight timeline in which to unroll all of the requirements.
“It is getting to be very disheartening to see all of these new requirements come from the state level, and we just don’t know where the money to do these things is coming from.”
Peru Central School Interim Superintendent A. Paul Scott viewed mandate relief from another perspective.
“I think that during the years ahead, mandate relief, depending on your perspective, will be something that will either be helpful or may erode public schools.”
For example, New York state does not mandate kindergarten, and therefore school districts could save money and do away with it. Fortunately, Scott said, many communities understand the importance of kindergarten and provide it.
In addition, many students do not like to take Regents exams, yet they provide a certain level of quality assurance.
“If a state does not mandate Regents exams, that could set conditions that perhaps public education won’t be as well thought out as it might have been otherwise,” Scott said. “It all depends on the particular mandate as to whether or not it is thoughtful or helpful to have.
“It is absolutely the case that New York state has one of the most highly regulated and mandated education programs in the nation.”
Like Turner, Scott suggested New York state roll back mandates for special education so they meet the federal guidelines. Then, if New York state wants to institute more strict guidelines, the funding should come with it.
When it comes to regulations, Scott said, it is almost like New York state never met one it did not like.
“At the same time, some programs might not be available to children in some communities if not for the mandates,” he said. “I would not be one to say sweep them all out, but instead take a thoughtful look and more balanced approach during these challenging times.”