Superintendents Advocate For Priorities

Superintendents Advocate For Priorities
Posted on 01/19/2024

Superintendent James Bennefield and Board of Education member David Holck joined WSWHE BOCES administrators and board members; chief school officers from 30 school districts and their board presidents; NYS Senators Ashby, Stec, Tedisco, Walczyk; members of the NYS Assembly Simpson, Walsh, Woerner; and business leaders for the 2024 Legislative Breakfast at the Southern Adirondack Education Center in Hudson Falls.

At the annual event, the WSWHE BOCES Chief School Officers (CSO) Advocacy Committee outlined their 2024 legislative priorities which include: increased state support for career and technical education, school workforce development issues, increase in the spending limit for capital outlays, school aid and transitioning to zero emissions buses. 

The CSOs are advocating for an increase in State support for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs which provide students with essential skills that prepare them for college and careers. The current BOCES aid formula for CTE programs operated by BOCES only allows districts to receive aid on the first $30,000 of a BOCES instructor’s salary. The average salary of a CTE teacher is now at least $65,000. To ensure that students have access to the CTE pathway, the CSOs are requesting an increase in the amount of CTE teacher salary that is aidable. 

The CSOs are requesting that policymakers consider increasing flexibilities in teacher certification requirements and retiree employee employment as well as Tier 6 reform to address teacher, bus driver and other staff shortages that are making it increasingly difficult to fully and properly staff buildings. 

Current law allows school districts to make one “capital outlay” annually. The current project threshold of $100,000 was established in 2002 and has not increased since. The CSOs request that the spending limit for capital outlays be raised to $250,000 annually beginning in the 2024-25 school year. 

To ensure that all students are supported, the CSOs asked that the following provisions be included for school aid in the 2024-25 State Budget:

-A due minimum increase for all districts, regardless of Foundation Aid phase-in level.  

-A “save-harmless” provision to ensure a stable funding baseline for all districts.

-Support an initial evaluation of the current cost to educate a successful student. 

Current state law requires that all new school buses acquired be zero emissions by 2027 and all buses in operation must be zero emissions by 2035. The first state guidance on the transition was not released until almost a year and a half after the law was enacted and districts are already running into barriers. The CSOs request that the State evaluate all existing programs around transportation, capital and planning and make updates to all planning and funding streams to include costs related to planning and executing this transition. 

Several additional ongoing issues relating to small group health insurance standards and school holidays were also discussed.

For a full description of the priorities, please click here.

“On behalf of the school districts in the WSWHE BOCES region, I want to thank our elected representatives for their continued advocacy and hard work on behalf of their school communities. The support our delegation has continually shown for our students is amazing and we are incredibly grateful for their partnership,” said Hartford Central School District Superintendent and Chair of the CSO Advocacy Committee, Andrew Cook. 

Cook added, “we believe the legislative priorities discussed today will benefit students across New York State and we are looking forward to working side-by-side with our representatives to ensure that every student in our region has the best educational experience possible."

New York State Regent Dr. Roger Catania who joined the event said he planned to brief the audience on the 2024-25 Regents School Aid Proposal. However, given the release of the executive budget this week, he was compelled to comment on how proposed cuts would affect his service area. 

“We need to take a look at these different aspects of the foundation aid formula so that we can create a formula that works, as opposed to years ago, one that serves students throughout the state. We need to see how we can provide greater equity, greater access and increase excellence,” said Catania.

Eric Wood, the president of Finch Paper, said he fully supports the CSO Advocacy Committee’s priorities, in particular increasing the BOCES aid cap on CTE instructors’ salaries which would mean greater access to CTE programs for more students and in turn workforce development.

“We are desperate,” said Wood. “How do we measure desperate? Local businesses, mine included, are walking away from tens of millions of dollars in revenue every single year. We just don’t have enough people to do the work that we need to do.” 

Alumni Hailey Burdick, a 2023 graduate of Queensbury UFSD, spoke about her experience in the power sports technology program and how she landed a job right out of high school working for Sportline Power Products.

“The best part of the CTE program was the hands-on experience. I got to take apart and rebuild engines and equipment in a shop, where if I decided to go into the field, it was getting me ready for the work environment.”

Burdick credited her instructor and her internship at Progressive Motorsports, a woman-run business, for giving her the confidence to get into a male dominated industry. 

Amelia Shattuck, a senior at Queensbury UFSD also spoke about the construction trades program. 

Dr. Turina Parker thanked the culinary arts students for showcasing their skills with a delicious breakfast that they prepared and served to over 100 guests. Other CTE students that participated in the event were the horticulture students, who created floral centerpieces, and the criminal justice studies students, who directed traffic. SkillsUSA and FFA students sat at tables and told guests about their respective organizations and the opportunities available to them.