NY Officials: More money needed to fix public schools

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York invests $3 billion annually to the nearly 700 school districts throughout the state, yet it is still not enough to fix many of the schools’ infrastructure problems.

“How can we move forward in a way that doesn’t cost the taxpayers yet more money,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) said.

As the committee explains, the average age of school buildings are around 44 years old and are rapidly deteriorating.

“Research has shown that failing school buildings contribute to lower academic achievement, overcrowding, and lower student morale.”

In order to combat this, a $2 billion smart school bond was approved in 2014 to help fund technology and facility upgrades in public schools.

“Across the board, all school districts are really in great need for one or two things,” MaryEllen Elia, New York State Education Commissioner, said.

Under this bond, 367 plans have been approved for the school districts, with an additional 700 projects still in the works.  Elia says that the delay in completing many of these projects is lack of staff.

“It would be a mistake for anyone to think that it can actually improve without more positions and more positions being filled,” Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Westchester) said.

“I appreciate you accepting the fact that there is a real problem in terms of the number of staff members,” Elia said.

More money would need to be spent on staff on top of the money that the state is already borrowing.  The New York State Education Department says they are having a tough time finding engineers because salaries are too low.

“Working on creative ways to try to have engineers working with us part time to review a certain number of projects,” Elia said. “All of those things are particularly important to stretch what we have.”

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