January 24, 2013
By Brad Gerstman
On January 9th Governor Andrew M. Cuomo addressed the state of New York with a promising agenda for 2013. Amid a positive disposition he emphasized a necessity to build on the progress we have made since his election in 2010.
Of the many areas discussed during his address, Governor Cuomo spoke inspiringly of his plans for improved education.
Reminding audiences that in many ways economic recovery and future achievement as a community are reliant on the success and quality of public education, Cuomo set forth a proposal for developing a more holistic approach to education.
It's acknowledged that the countless public school districts which exist throughout the state of New York do not function identically. While some are situated in affluent towns, others subsist in far less fortunate surroundings. Though we may have once believed otherwise, providing public schools with the same level of funding alone does not ensure an equal level of success. Governor Cuomo’s address recognized that the demands of underserved communities are far different then those of wealthier districts. For children growing up in low income neighborhoods the pressures of school are coupled with other daunting anxieties that range in severity from limited financial support to gang affiliations, broken families, and drug abuse. This is not to undermine the hardships faced by children living in wealthier communities. However, it would ultimately be a grave oversight on the part of state government to assume that a one size fits all approach will work for children living in drastically dissimilar environments.
For some of New York’s neediest communities the Governor announced plans to improve the resources offered through the public school system. Given the various factors these children are not only exposed to but are often forced to overcome, resources may include anything from an increased number of social workers to tutoring opportunities.
In addition to enhanced resources the Governor also discussed plans to transform many of the districts in low income neighborhoods into community schools. Citing models like the Cincinnati Community Learning Centers and Harlem Children’s Zone, Cuomo proposed restructuring these institutions to include more then just the necessary educational resources. The schools would ultimately represent a safe haven for all members of the neighborhood by providing families with educational, employment, and recreational resources as well as other support outlets like health care and social services. For residents who most readily rely on government resources, schools with extended opportunities would allow for more available access to vital services. Streamlining the concerns of community members into central hubs would not only reinforce the strength of academic institutions, but more importantly aid in bettering the neighborhoods in which they subsist.
Cuomo’s dedication to the improvement of education here in New York set an inspiring tone for the start of the New Year. Only time will tell how successful we are at achieving our goal of developing a more holistic approach to education. However based on this initial address, I’d say we are off to a truly promising start.