Pauline Liu: Money a question mark in new school programs

Times Herald-Record | June 23, 2014 | Column by Pauline Liu

School’s out for summer, but there’s still plenty of news on the education front. Some of the top stories concern new programs for our biggest and smallest public school kids.

In each case, it seems the problems lie in the details.

School districts are getting ready to send in their grant applications for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new statewide Universal Pre-K program.

According to the state Education Department data, 10 school districts in the mid-Hudson have expressed plans to apply. That’s 29 percent of the districts in the region and more than the statewide average.

Statewide, only 21 percent of districts have said that they’ll be applying.

According to the education think tank Alliance for Quality Education, the problem is not because of a shortage of 4-year-olds.

AQE has found that poor districts, which may need the program the most, can’t afford to lay out the cash upfront to set up the pre-K and then wait to be reimbursed.

Since everyone agrees that Universal Pre-K is needed to help kids be successful in life, then why was it set up in such a shortsighted manner?

“Any growth in pre-K is positive, but the design of this program is actually an impediment blocking most children from the pre-K classroom,” said Billy Easton, AQE executive director. “The governor needs to provide the money up front if full day pre-K is to remain more than an unfunded promise for the vast majority of 4-year-olds outside New York City.”

More than 140 districts out of 668 have said they will apply, including the mid-Hudson districts of Cornwall, Eldred, Florida, Liberty, Livingston Manor, Newburgh, Onteora, Rondout, Tri-Valley and Valley Central.

Meanwhile, the big kids could be in for some changes, including a requirement to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation in order to graduate.

If Cuomo signs legislation into law and the Board of Regents approves the plan, incoming seniors would be required to receive hands-on training in CPR as well as the use of automated external defibrillators.

The bills, which recently sailed through both houses, were written with the belief that children “can achieve acceptable levels of skill proficiency in adult CPR in 30 minutes or less,” according to the legislation.

While any amount of CPR training could help save a life in an emergency, some first responders and educators want to see students certified in order to guarantee that they’ve been properly trained.

With this program, just as with pre-K, the issue of funding hasn’t been properly addressed. There are no details about how much the classes and equipment will cost or who’s even offering the training.

I, for one, think the CPR plan is in need of some critical care and re-evaluation before it can become a requirement for graduation.

pliu@th-record.com

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