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Long Island schools need help from the state

Gov. Cuomo should sign a bill allowing districts

Gov. Cuomo should sign a bill allowing districts to use reserve funds for pandemic-related expenses. Credit: Office of NY Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

New York’s schools face extraordinary challenges, and they need all the help state government can provide.

That’s why a bill proposed by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and passed by the State Legislature should be signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. It will allow districts to borrow from reserve funds for operating expenses related to the pandemic, allow more latitude in short-term bonding, and give districts more leeway in how quickly they repay money moved between funds.

Districts face Herculean tasks. They must devise plans to educate students, working against staggering challenges like remote learning, in-school classes with distancing and masking, or a combination of both. Educators face this challenge knowing many kids are behind from the interruptions of spring. The children who struggle the most in normal times, those with less wealth or special needs, have suffered the most educationally during this pandemic.

Districts also may have to manage transporting children, a nightmare if social distancing is required and school buses are limited to few riders. And educators must keep students and staff safe, meaning more cleaning, testing and, potentially, longer hours.

But the hardest part may be paying for it all.

The state is broke, with a $13 billion deficit looming and aid from Washington uncertain. Cuomo says cuts in state aid of as much as 20% are possible, and nowhere in the budgets of school districts is there room for such slashes.

School districts need all the help they can get. This flexibility in this bill is a start.

— The editorial board