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Regents endorse $2.1B school aid plan

Members of the state Board of Regents during

Members of the state Board of Regents during a meeting at the State Education Department in Albany on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Photo Credit: Hans Pennink / Hans Pennink

New York’s Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that would expand state school aid by nearly $2.1 billion next year, while also endorsing greater financial support for undocumented immigrant students.

The package proposed by the education policymaking board — which must still be approved by the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — would provide an extra $1.47 billion during the 2017-18 school year in foundation aid, which supports general school operations. Additional money would be targeted for specific purposes, including $100 million for language instruction of non-English speaking students.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa of the Bronx and board member Roger Tilles of Great Neck on Tuesday both called on state lawmakers to approve the English-instruction money, along with legislation providing college-tuition aid for undocumented immigrants. That bill, geared toward young immigrants known as Dreamers, is politically controversial due to its links with the broader issue of illegal immigration.

It would eliminate a provision of state law requiring college students to be U.S. citizens or permanent lawful residents in order to receive state tuition assistance or scholarships.

Tilles, who represents Long Island on the board, read a statement at Tuesday’s board meeting describing the English-instruction money and the act as “strong positions on behalf of the needs of the state’s diverse and immigrant communities.” Other board members voted in support of the statement.

In 2014, a similar bill narrowly failed to win approval in the State Senate, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting against it. The State Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats, had earlier approved the measure.

“So many legal families are struggling with the high cost of college education right now,” one GOP senator, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, said in explaining his “no” vote.

In recent years, Regents have been elected by Assembly Democrats, who control the biggest voting bloc within the State Legislature.

The school-aid proposal endorsed Regents on Tuesday also calls for a $4.3 billion, three year phase-in of additional “foundation” aid statewide. The plan now goes to the Legislature and Cuomo, who so far has committed only to an additional $1.1 billion in aid spending next year.

In other action Tuesday, the Regents approved changes to the state’s science standards, the first such overhaul since 1996.

Educators, administrators and science experts had spent more than five years working to update the standards, which emphasize more experiments in the classroom and fewer lectures, vocabulary quizzes and instruction through memorization, educators said.

Mary Loesing, president of the Long Island STEM Education Leadership Association and STEM chairwoman of the Connetquot school district, on Monday said she would work with Long Island officials to build curriculums across the districts using the new statewide standards.

During a presentation to the state’s P-12 Education Committee, she said there would be a system in place to ensure that students who move between districts are “not repeating or omitting standards.”

The Regents also approved changes to the state’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting System, reducing the number of categories from 20 to nine, as officials hope to place a greater emphasis on violent crimes in the state database.


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