Albany's top education issues

Teacher educating students
Teacher educating students
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Albany's top education issues

How lawmakers are looking to improve schools this session
February 4, 2018

Here's a look at how lawmakers in Albany are looking to tackle education issues this legislative session.

Pre-K expansion

The executive budget includes $15 million for expanding prekindergarten, adding to the $800 million the state already spends annually. That falls short of the $20 million expansion the state Board of Regents requested. The investment would provide instruction to an estimated 3,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds in high-need school districts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the state pre-K program in 2013, which currently has 123,000 students enrolled, and has expanded it every year since.

Student hunger

Cuomo proposed the No Student Goes Hungry Program to provide students with healthy, locally sourced meals at school to fight child hunger. The initiative includes legislation to ban a practice known as “lunch shaming,” in which schools single out students unable to pay by serving them other, usually lower-quality food. It also would expand access to school breakfast for students from low-income families.

Tech training

Cuomo’s budget would spend another $6 million on student access to computer science and engineering education. The Smart Start program would award grants to train teachers in those fields and to provide resources to teach students. The program also includes legislation that would create model computer science standards. The initiative goes hand in hand with a program from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to train every student in the basics of computer science.

Higher education

The upcoming fiscal year marks the second phase of Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, which adjusts the eligibility threshold for students to receive free tuition to public universities to households making up to $110,000 per year. Cuomo’s budget also includes a plan to address student loan debt, including a new student loan ombudsman and a requirement that schools notify students with updates on their incurred loans as well as protections like prohibiting the suspension of professional licenses when someone is behind on payments.

DREAM Act

While debate rages in Washington over the federal DREAM Act, Cuomo’s executive budget proposal includes legislation to implement the state version of the DREAM Act. The state measure would help thousands of undocumented immigrants in New York gain access to higher education by making them eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, the Tuition Assistance Program and other state scholarships. The bill has passed the Assembly multiple times, but has faced opposition in the state Senate.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is an editorial assistant at City & State.
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