The Long and Short of Long Island Schools

Patricia Hawke for

Want to know more about Long Island Schools?  Long Island Schools consist of 125 public school districts, 416,093 students and 29,901 teachers. About 88.4 percent of high school students on Long Island go on to enter post-secondary education.   
The biggest issue as a whole for Long Island Schools is determining the budget. A recent challenge to the state school funding system, by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, led the New York State Court of Appeals to require the state to adopt a special funding plan to make sure that all students are given access to a proper high school education within the public school system. The Court appears to be in conflict with Governor Pataki, who is trying to push through a $400 million voucher plan. Under this proposal, parents of 1.8 million school children throughout the state would be eligible for the new credit. State aid has increased 65 percent since 1995. Pataki believes that this education tax credit will give parents new resources and flexibility to meet the educational needs of their children, including the students of Long Island Schools. 
Pataki has many detractors, who don’t feel that vouchers are the way to go. Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association says that public schools still have too many unmet needs to spend $400 million on a voucher plan. Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the NYS School Boards Association, says that the tax break is “a $400 million gift from taxpayers to families who don’t need it.”  
“The NYS PTA believes that every child deserves equal access to the same outcome, that is, an excellent education,” Donohue adds, “That means using our government’s resources to close gaps, not create them; to raise student achievement of all and not just for some; and to prepare students for a democratic society for which public schools remain the best forum.” 
How does all of this impact Long Island Schools as a whole? All the Long Island Schools reap benefits from additional funding, so help from the state would not be unwelcome. However, what each of the Long Island Schools spends their money on and what they need money for varies greatly.  
In the Baldwin District of Long Island Schools, taxpayers are actually getting a break, after representatives netted an additional $23.6 million in state aid.  Since this district’s budget didn’t change this year, the extra state aid the district received lowers the amount that homeowners have to pay.   
Not every district in Long Island Schools is mired down in a budget quagmire.  Consider these Long Island Schools. East Rockaway’s High School class of 2006 had one of the highest Regents diploma rates ever (91%), and 96% of students went on to college.  The dropout rate at the school is ZERO, and students excel not only academically but in drama, music, and sports as well.
Also seeing fantastic success within Long Island Schools is the Lynbrook School District.  They have scored consistently high grades on the NY State Assessment tests:  100% of fifth graders passed the 2006 social studies exam.  Nearly 90% of this Long Island Schools’ middle school students passed the English Language Arts test.  Last year, just like the seniors at East Rockaway, 96% of Lynbrook High School seniors went to college.  The district’s diverse academic programs have won many awards, and its Long Island Schools’ athletic teams continue to excel. 
In short, Long Island Schools have a lot to offer students and their families.  Concern and involvement from families, community and political leaders over budget spending, and an impressive roster of successful schools are the tip of the iceberg in this area of our nation.