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On our minds: 3 back-to-school lessons for LI

Newsday's editorial board spends all week striving to be a reasoned and pragmatic voice for Long Island and its values through our editorials and columns. We debate local, national and international issues and write on those we think will impact our readers.

Some topics come up that don't turn into longer pieces, but are part of the national conversation and worth bringing up. Here's how we're telling you about them.

Long Island's big investment in education

$11.7 billion. That's how much the 124 public
Photo Credit: iStock

$11.7 billion.

That's how much the 124 public school districts of Long Island will spend this school year, including state and federal funding.

That's $26,400 per student for each of the 443,000 kids. To put it another way, if you picture a classroom of 25 students with one teacher standing up front, the funding for that group is $656,000.

It's a lot of money, but Long Islanders have always supported spending to provide great educations. Now, with money ever tighter, the focus will increasingly rest on how smart districts can be in spending it.

Wake up to ways to help teen students

For years studies have told us high school
Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

For years studies have told us high school students aren't set up biologically to fall asleep early in the evening, or awaken and excel at school early in the morning.

Last week the most authoritative voice yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics, supported moving to later start times for high schools. All the evidence shows what needs to be done, but it's nearly impossible to do anyway. The way buses and extracurricular activities are scheduled has kept 86 percent of high schools nationally starting the school day before 8:30 a.m.

But about 5 percent of the nation's high schools have moved to later starts and studies show it helps reduce tardiness and car accidents by teen drivers and improve grades in morning classes. This deserves a try on Long Island, and districts should be able to figure out how . . . if they brainstorm about it at the right time of day.

An easier path to consolidation

Hope springs anew that Long Island might see
Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Hope springs anew that Long Island might see its first school district consolidation in 10 years. Armed with two new pieces of state legislation, officials in Southampton and Tuckahoe are again pushing a plan to merge their districts. Southampton voters rejected a proposal last fall, largely because it entailed a steep tax increase; Tuckahoe voters approved the plan. Now, tax increases can be spread out over 10 years, and Southampton can use a $9-million reserve intended for construction to further offset the hike.

The proposed merger makes a lot of sense; each district faces a troubling financial future if it does not take place. Many other districts contemplating consolidation are watching.

With their tax concerns largely addressed, it's time for Southampton voters to make this merger work.