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Help BOCES fulfill its mission

Jennifer Galasso, left, a teacher at Nassau BOCES'

Jennifer Galasso, left, a teacher at Nassau BOCES' Doshi STEM School in Syosset, works with students Lauryn Lee, rear, and Meghna Girdhar, right, as they take part in a DNA fingerprinting exercise on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Credit: Heather Walsh

We all lose when a good idea withers and dies for lack of funding. So we should be alarmed by what's unfolding in Nassau County, where two specialized BOCES high schools -- one for the arts, one for science and math -- are in danger of closing. The culprit, primarily, is money. The positive spin: it wouldn't cost a lot to keep them going. We need to make that happen.

The Long Island High School for the Arts has been around for more than 40 years and nurtures aspiring singers, actors, artists and musicians. The Doshi STEM Institute, in its second year and sharing the same Syosset campus, serves students talented in science, technology, engineering and math. But tuition -- more than $12,000 at the arts school and $7,400 at the STEM school, a lower total thanks to a grant from a local businesswoman -- is an increasing burden for districts that must foot the bill for the students they send.

Since the beginning of the recession in 2008, arts school enrollment has dropped by half. The STEM school has only half its projected students. The numbers don't work for BOCES. And they don't work for districts struggling with the state property tax cap, especially those with the most to lose -- the ones that can't afford, or have been unable, to mount their own successful specialized programs.

The cost to run both schools at full enrollment is $3 million per year. That's a pittance when state aid to school districts tops $21 billion. Surely, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers can find the cash as they hash out next year's funding. These schools provide different paths to graduation as educators stress the importance of alternatives. And they bring together kids of different backgrounds who otherwise would remain separated -- minority students make up 24 percent of the arts school and 75 percent of the STEM school.

Long Island needs these schools. So do our kids. Find the funding.


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