The committee, thus far, has not put forth recommendations for how schools should cope with unfunded mandates, rising employee health-care and retirement costs, reductions in state-aid and restrictions to the ways in which schools may generate revenue.
“What it doesn’t get to is the larger, bigger problem of how public schools are going to be financed and funded into the future,” Short said.
SMALL VS. MERGERS
In addition to financial issues, local school officials noted, some of the committee’s recommendations could prove problematic for other reasons.
The report, for instance, discusses how restructuring districts through consolidation and regional high schools could promote increased access to educational opportunities and prove more fiscally efficient.
Fairchild, however, feels that children who attend smaller schools are more likely to get individualized attention and, therefore, are less likely to fall through the cracks.
In heavily populated schools, he said, “it’s really easy for a kid to get lost.”
The committee’s consolidation recommendation, Osborne added, also overlooks how much time children in rural areas like the North Country could spend traveling to and from a regional school each day, not to mention the cost of providing transportation for such an endeavor.
“I’m not so sure that anybody is taking into consideration how sparsely populated our region is,” he said.
Still, area superintendents said they are encouraged that the committee is discussing how to better the state’s public-school system.
They agree the report is a start toward education reform.
“I applaud the commission for engaging in the conversation regarding education,” Stephen Broadwell, superintendent of Willsboro Central School, said in an email to the Press-Republican.
Short added that the committee’s report makes note of the group’s intentions to continue and expand its discussions in the future to include fiscal matters facing districts.
“I think that’s really the bigger issue,” he said.
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