Component school districts in the WSWHE BOCES, including Queensbury, have established a set of regional advocacy priorities for the 2020 legislative session. The Queensbury Board of Education adopted those priorities during its regular meeting in January 2020.
Spreading the word
The following are ways in which the school community builds awareness of its priorities throughout the year.
The legislative session begins in Albany, and the governor typically delivers his executive budget by the end of the month. School advocates share their priorities via email and social media as well as by letter or during in-person meetings.
February and March
Various pro-education groups hold public rallies or lobby days in Albany.
The legislative session ends after school budgets are set for the following year, so advocates work to ensure no new unfunded/underfunded mandates are passed.
Summer to fall
Advocates visit local legislative offices to discuss their priorities for local schools.
WSWHE chief school officers’ 2020 legislative priorities
- Fund and adjust the foundation formula
- Review and update the foundation amount (it is currently $6,714.00 per pupil)
- Provide a minimum increase of 2% in foundation aid to all school districts
- Maintain the “SAVE Harmless” provision.
- Adjust the weighting factor for free and reduced lunch from .65 to .75-.80 to reflect large increases in this population.
- Increase the $30,000 threshold on BOCES aid for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs by providing 100% aidability for the salaries of CTE teachers
- Allow districts to access the BOCES Health Safety and Risk Management Service to offset the costs and to increase the number of School Resource Officers
- Support a permanent solution to the small group health insurance issue
- Support efforts to prevent the use of e-cigarettes, including vaping
- Building aid for small capital projects
- Increase the threshold for base year capital outlay expenses from the current amount, established in 2002 from $100,000 to $250,000 to assist districts in making critical capital improvements.
Deliver your advocacy messages more effectively by telling gripping stories in brief presentations known as “laser talks.”
Identify the problem
- In your laser talk, focus first on identifying a problem you want your listener to know about. Try to connect the problem to an issue the listener already cares about.
Present a solution
- Next, inform the listener about a solution to the problem you just presented. Give examples of how the solution would work and why it would be effective. You might cite a recent study or use other credible statistics.
Issue a call to action
- The final section of the laser talk is the call to action. Calls to action should be concrete, specific and include a “yes” or “no” question.
Work in a personal story
- Try to include a compelling, personal story that expands on your laser talk.
Solving the fiscal crisis for schools, taxpayers
New York schools provide vital programs and services to students and families throughout the state. State legislators and the Board of Regents often prescribe how these services should or can be provided through the passage of laws, regulations and guidelines, generally referred to as “mandates.” Unfortunately, these state mandates have created an environment of unsustainable rising costs for public schools.
How do mandates affect education?
Mandates are designed to help students by requiring greater accountability, by improving the quality of education and/or the educational environment, and by serving the interests of all students or specific student populations. Here are just a few examples:
- Grades 3-8 and Regents exam testing, scoring, analysis and mailings to parents
- Annual Professional Performance Reviews for teachers and principals
- Common Core Standards adoption, implementation and curriculum realignment
- Special education mandates
- Internal and external audit requirements
- Maintenance of a physical and dental health records for every student
- Numerous plans and reports for the state Education Department
How are mandates causing a crisis for schools and taxpayers?
New mandates often come unfunded or underfunded, meaning districts must reduce non-mandated programs and services or pass on the cost to local taxpayers. Of the 151 mandates that “represent the greatest challenges to districts in terms of financial burden and required time,” 69 percent came with no funding. (source: www.p12.nysed.gov/fmis/mandaterelief)
Almost every report released on the topic has outlined a series of recommendations on how to achieve mandate relief, but very few of the proposals have actually been enacted. In fact, the Legislature, governor, Board of Regents and the federal government regularly enact new mandates that districts must follow.