ALBANY, N.Y. – Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out a long list of agendas during his State of the State address on Wednesday with a major focus on education reform.
Part of Cuomo’s proposed reform included tougher teacher evaluations and proposing more charter schools. Local leaders on both sides of the political aisle spoke on the governor’s proposed education reform.
Some saw eye-to-eye with the governor while others had some concerns. But the one issue lawmakers could agree on was closing the gap in funding between rich and poor school districts.
“Without question that’s got to be our number one goal – to bring that funding up, fully funded and eliminate that gap,” Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco said. “And then we can work fairly with educators because now we’ve got the funding to provide the curriculum, the textbooks, the guidance, and the training for the teachers.”
“In my school districts alone that’s $18 million that the school districts are owed,” Democrat Assembly member Carrie Woerner said. “You know, they are doing really well; they are doing all the things that the governor has said are important. They are consolidating services, they’re focusing on core education, they’re doing the good things, and they’re doing it with very little money. And we just need to take our foot off the hose just a little bit to make sure that those school districts are fiscally sound. And the gap elimination money would do that.”
Cuomo also focused on the upstate economy and small businesses.
To boost the economy, Cuomo proposed $1.5 billion for upstate economic development meaning seven upstate regions would compete for the money. Only a select few would get that money, and it’s an idea that lawmakers are split on.
“This idea that seven regions would compete but only three would win is a little too high stakes for me,” Assembly member Patricia Fahy said. “Let’s pick the pieces of those that are the things to fund – and the significant things. But I don’t want to see that just because of a couple pieces of a proposal, the Capital Region could be left with nothing while the Binghamton area gets $500 million. That’s just, again, too high stakes.”
“Well, i think it is all about the upstate economy and jobs,” Senator Hugh Farley said. “And generally speaking, I’m very supportive of that.”
Cuomo also wants to cut taxes for small business owners from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent, which is the lowest rate in 100 years. It’s a positive agenda many lawmakers support.
“Think about town after town after town that has empty store fronts; empty buildings, that are crying out for small businesses,” Woerner said. “And that’s really going to be how I know that we’ve been successful, and we’ve got small businesses in each of those buildings that are successful and able to support the people that own them and the people they hire.”
Lawmakers said the governor has very ambitious plans. They said they still need to read the fine print of the agendas and how they’ll be paid for, but they’re ready to get to work.