This week's top stories
1. Stimulus for LI schools, colleges
Public schools and universities across the state are slated to receive $5.8 billion in funding, according to a summary of the recent stimulus bill passed by the House, signed by the president and under consideration by the Senate.
The legislation would allocate $4 billion for elementary and secondary schools. Officials raced over the summer to buy classroom desk shields, computers for remote learning and other equipment necessary to teach during the pandemic.
Colleges and universities in New York that have battled coronavirus on campus and implemented large-scale virus testing programs would receive $1.4 billion. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund would receive $313 million.
Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on the state Board of Regents, said the education funding is a good start but falls short of what’s needed.
"This certainly helps a lot," he said. But "it's not enough."
A statement from state Education Department Vice Chancellor Andrew Born and interim Commissioner Betty Rosa said the department is calling for state operating aid for schools to remain level with 2019-20 funding levels and that any new federal dollars be used to supplement, not supplant, state aid funds.
"Our schools have undertaken enormous costs to safely educate New York’s children during the pandemic and new federal funding should be used to help offset these additional costs," the statement read.
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2. Some sports are back
Long Island's high school sports winter season is scheduled to begin Monday when low- and moderate-risk sports — boys and girls bowling, boys swimming, boys and girls fencing, girls gymnastics and boys and girls winter track — are allowed to begin practicing based on the state's return-to-play guidelines.
High-risk winter sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling and cheerleading — remain indefinitely postponed by the state. Long Island's public schools have not had any competition since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Teams will need the state-mandated six practices before they can play an event. According to Combs, the first date for games to begin would be Jan. 12.
- Suffolk and Nassau counties are planning to play an eight-week winter season.
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3. Educators look to the new year
Long Island schools head into 2021 focused on the health of their students and staff, and also the health of their finances. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has warned repeatedly he may cut school aid, due in large part to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s budget.
- The risk was underlined recently when state monitors assigned to Long Island’s two poorest school districts issued reports showing the potential local impact of aid reductions. Hempstead estimated its loss at $28 million, compared with a total district budget of $225 million. Wyandanch estimated more than $9 million, compared with a $69 million budget. Hempstead’s monitor, Bill Johnson, said any such action on Albany’s part could force his system to "put in place midyear reductions to take place immediately."
- Cuomo still hopes for federal financial relief, but not until after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The governor is to lay out his own 2021-22 budget and school-aid package by Jan. 19.
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4. So long and thank you to 'Sister Mary Ann'
Mary Ann Borrello, longtime professor of anthropology at Suffolk County Community College, was always ahead of the curve during her 48-year tenure at the school, her friends and colleagues say. Borrello, 81, who started the college’s food pantry in 1976, is retiring in January.
- "Sister Mary Ann" will leave behind a legacy of philanthropy, kindness and community spirit, colleagues say. "I don’t know how we’ll fill the void when she leaves," said Lynn Liebert Marx, academic chair of the social sciences department on the Michael J. Grant campus in Brentwood. Upon Borrello's retirement, the college will name the food pantry in her honor.
- The community college's food pantry provided families with a weekly supply of food Dec. 22 for the Christmas holiday, college spokesman Drew Biondo said, as it has done every Tuesday throughout the pandemic. This holiday season, in addition to the weekly food distributions, the pantry has handed out more than $1,200 in gift cards since Thanksgiving for families to buy food and necessities, Biondo said.
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Resources for you
- Newsday named its first All-Long Island team in 1962 for football. In the years since, the Newsday All-Long Island honor has been extended to all high school sports. This database lets you explore every team from every year, as well as sort by school or sport and see how many times a particular player earned Newsday All-Long Island status. For more, visit projects.newsday.com.
- Check out HowStuffWorks.com, a website that uses articles, podcasts and videos to give children easy-to-understand answers and explanations of how the world actually works.
Round of applause
A Merrick student and her mother have joined forces to create and distribute hundreds of free face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keira Glover, a third-grader at Birch Elementary School, has made more than 300 masks since the spring with her mother, Cynthia, through their partnership called Glover's Covers. They have given the masks free of charge to teachers, essential workers, friends and family.
Keira, 8, helps her mother pick out the designs, cut the patterns and package the masks, among other things. "I am happy that we are helping people stay safe," Keira said.
Your questions answered
Have questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.
What will the stimulus mean for public education in New York?
Several state education leaders and organizations have weighed in on what the stimulus will mean for the state's public schools. Here are their responses:
- New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider said it was an "essential step to recovery," calling the stimulus a lifeline for schools and students that will help carry them over until more comprehensive federal assistance can be provided to state and local governments. "To be sure, this package is not all we had hoped for, and it is not the last federal assistance that will be needed to help states, local governments and public schools dig out and recover from the impacts of the pandemic."
- New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said the group agrees with interim state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa and the Board of Regents that the billions earmarked for K–12 schools should be used to supplement state aid and to keep aid payments to school districts flowing in full. "To be sure, this COVID relief package represents one step on the road to economic recovery. ... Here in Albany, we also continue to support asking the ultrawealthy to pay their fair share in state taxes in the upcoming legislative session," he said.
Amanda Wing, interim executive director of The Association of School Business Officials, praised local officials for securing stimulus funds and also joined with the Board of Regents calling for state leaders to ensure that all school districts receive their full aid payments for the 2020-21 fiscal year. "It is also crucial that policymakers take the steps necessary to ensure that these new federal funds do not negatively impact the tax cap calculations for the 2021-2022 school year. ... Congress must provide additional funding to support state and local governments. Without this funding, the cascading fiscal strain would prove disastrous for school districts and New York as a whole."
— Find the latest education news at newsday.com/long-island/education.