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Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his annual State of the State presentation on Wednesday, January 3 in Albany.  NYS PTA is optimistic with the Governor’s comments and policy book.

“The Governor’s agenda, set in his State of the State presentation, is overwhelmingly positive, and NYS PTA will support many of the initiatives outlined,” Gracemarie Rozea offered, NYS PTA President. “We anxiously await the Executive Budget, as the Education Conference Board and NYS PTA recently called for a $2.0 billion increase in school aid.”

NYS PTA fully supports the proposals related to pre-kindergarten and supports high-quality school-based pre-k for ALL students.  Continued investments in pre-k have myriad positive outcomes for children and  we look forward to working on this issue to see that each child in New York has access to free high-quality school-based pre-k.  We are optimistic with the Governor’s First 1,000 days plan and Child Care Availability Task Force, and await more details on these proposals.  We also fully support expansion of high-quality after school programs as was detailed in the policy book.

We were pleased to see expansion of early college high school programs, and support expansion and support for career and technical education and other pathways to graduation.  The Smart Start Computer Science Program seems to offer additional opportunities for our children, and we are pleased that funds were included to expand access to college preparation and advocated placement courses.

“Many of these proposals are good steps forward for education,” added Dana Platin, NYS PTA Vice President for Advocacy. “We will continue to advocate on critical issues facing children, schools, and families such as education funding, expansion of pre-K and after-school opportunities, and creation of multiple pathways to graduation and a meaningful diploma for all students.”

Traffic safety continues to be a critical concern for PTA, and we have recently launched a new program – Every Child Travels Safely – statewide. We were pleased to see proposals including to increase penalties for passing a stopped school bus.

The No Student Goes Hungry Campaign is an exciting initiative to support children. Food insecurity and hunger are real issues for families, and we fully support the prohibition on lunch shaming, expansion of the Farm to School Program, breakfast after the bell, and higher education based food pantries. We look forward to state fiscal and programmatic support for these initiatives, as cost is a concern that must be addressed for many of these proposals.

NYS PTA is fully supportive of increased and expanded mental health services for students and children. The expansion of school based health services is critical, and increased funding for these services is desperately needed.

The “T” in PTA matters, and we look forward to working to support and expand programs for teachers like the Master Teacher Program, the Excellence in Teaching Awards, and other programs such as National Board Certification and Teacher of the Year.

Expansion of the income limit for Excelsior Scholarship was a welcomed policy item, as we support affordable college and career access for all children.  NYS PTA also fully supports the state mentoring program, and at our recent Summer Leadership Conference, our attendees were trained by the Office of Mentoring to become mentors under the New York State Mentoring program.

Heroin and Opioid addiction continues to negatively affect and harm families across New York. NYS PTA remains committed to helping this disease, and is fully supportive of the Governor’s five-point plan to combat this horrible addiction and to help treat and support our fellow citizens.

NYS PTA is optimistic with suggested proposals to the juvenile justice system, as we previously supported the Raise the Age legislation. We continue to support the DREAM Act, and expansion of programs for English Language Learners and immigrant children.

NYS PTA recently launched a new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning Caucus, and we are pleased that Governor Cuomo discussed continued supports for diversity and the Dignity for All Students Act.

Lastly, we remain concerned, however, about state budget projections. It is critical that we fully support our students and schools with adequate and equitable school aid. The Education Conference Board recently called for a $2.0 billion increase in school aid. $1.5 billion alone is needed to fund current services and programs for students.

Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director of NYS PTA concluded, “The next six months are critical to the success of and support for our children. We look forward to working with parents, families and educators across New York State in collaboration with our education partners and policymakers to see that we make every child’s potential a reality.”