The Challenge Ahead
While stonewalling by Governor
Pataki and his delaying tactics and ploys have caused
the State of New York to miss the Court of Appeals’ July
30th deadline in the CFE (Campaign for Fiscal Equity)
case, within the near future the judicial branch will
order a remedy for unconstitutionally inadequate school
aid for New York City. Even as we still struggle to
find the right solution, the long legal battle has
diverted many people’s
attention from where or how substantial new dollars for
city schools when they do come forth should be spent,
to produce the educational “outputs”—academic
It is without question that
there are literally dozens of educational issues that
are important on some scale. Because of this, there
is a tendency to become overwhelmed, if not paralyzed.
Where to start? This does not simply involve choosing
between “on the one hand and on
the other,” because, well, there are just too many
important needs to hold in even two hands.
Here then is an effort to simplify the matter to a manageable
number of five; what follows are what I define to be
the five key areas where an investment of new funding
under an eventual CFE remedy must be targeted.
1. Early grade education. Pre-kindergarten should
be available to every 4-year-old whose parents
want it for their child. And age 3 is not too early either,
but we’re hardly ready for that. At a minimum,
however, the head start that pre-K programs give children
from all economic or cultural backgrounds is indeed unquestioned
and profound. It must be made truly and universally available.
2. Quality teachers and educational professionals.
The time has come to practice what we preach. If we are
really serious about attracting and retaining top quality,
well-trained teachers at every level and in every discipline,
then the profession of teaching needs to be respected,
with teachers being accorded the respect and salaries
that professionals deserve. They also need a working
environment that reflects how much we value education
3. Ample, adequate, modern, and environmentally sound
schools. We need enough new schools in the pipeline,
modernization of existing facilities, science labs
that have more than a Bunsen burner, and interactive
libraries, furnished with books published later than
Up the Down Staircase. Schools must be free of toxic
materials and cleansers. Every classroom and library
must be hooked up to the Internet, and not be a vestige
of the age of Sputnik.
4. Reduced class sizes. Modern school facilities,
and enough of them, will also help us keep all classes
smaller, in elementary school at or about 20 students
per class and in junior or high school, under 30. Simply
put: small classes allow teachers to teach and pupils
5. A successful school involves partnerships and
dedication. The school system needs to walk the
walk rather than merely talk the talk: parents as well
as local communities and businesses must be welcomed—and
heard—about matters affecting their local schools.
It’s not just about money. It’s
about responsible prioritizing and making every dollar
work for the betterment of every young mind. Standards
should be high, but creativity should soar.
Assemblyman Sanders is chairman of the Education
Committee. E-mail him at email@example.com or
phone 212.979.9696. His mailing address is 201 East
16th Street, New York, NY 10003.