Letter: School districts need real reform
To the editor
Published 11:46 pm, Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Times Union

How can Gov. Andrew Cuomo say school officials do not have any mandate relief ideas that will save significant amounts of money (“Schools raise uproar for help,” Feb. 1)?

The New York State School Boards Association has repeatedly offered solutions for saving school districts money. We have even submitted written proposals to lawmakers to:

Place a limit on employer contributions to employee and retiree health care premiums. This would save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Eliminate automatic raises under expired teacher contracts. We estimate the Triborough Amendment costs districts $113 million annually.

Eliminate seniority as the sole criteria for staff layoffs. Given the needs of today’s students, the most qualified teacher may not be the one with the longest tenure.

Enact legislation to form regional high schools statewide, which are good alternatives for communities with declining enrollments and dwindling ability to offer college- and career-ready prep programs.

Authorize the state Education Department to hire hearing officers for teacher disciplinary cases, competent and trained professionals who would decide cases more quickly and save money.

Real relief requires reforming big cost drivers such as the ones mentioned above, rather than trimming around the margins. But if these issues are “political non-starters,” as the governor said, then real mandate relief will remain nothing more than a lofty goal.

We laud the governor and legislators for passing significant pension reform and cooperative purchasing last year that will save school districts and other local governments significant amounts of money in the long term. But school districts need immediate relief as well.

Executive director
New York State School Boards Association