Friday, September 9, 2016

Remember That Thing You Voted For?

We tend to think that once we vote on a resolution, and it passes, our job is done. I'm sure our legislators feel the same way. But in the world of NYS education, that's not always the case. Remember approving the Smart Schools Bond Act in 2014? It was going to put all kinds of new technology in our schools. And it would have, probably, if there were anyone left in State Ed to approve the purchases. Instead, it was a Big Idea for which many legislators and the governor will take all kinds of credit but that in reality had zero effect.

Well, back in 2015, the state legislature approved an exemption for BOCES capital expenses in the Tax Cap Formula. Before that point, regular school districts could bond and build a capital project without the debt service affecting their tax cap, but BOCES could not. The result was that since the districts pay for BOCES capital projects, any such project would likely put them over their limit, so no BOCES building projects could be approved. TST, in our region, hasn't added square footage to its campus in over 20 years. We have kids traveling 50+ miles because they can't fit into programs at TST, and we have kids with serious developmental and emotional needs parked on waiting lists due to lack of space.

So the legislature heard us, and they passed the new law, and they called upon the Office of Taxation and Finance to develop the language that would include debt service for capital projects at BOCES under the same capital exemption from the tax cap that regular school districts have. But the Office of Taxation and Finance, an executive office, chose to stick the request somewhere in their pile of "Big Ideas We Really Don't Give a Damn About Because They Might Affect Something We Do Care About" (the tax cap), and across the state, BOCES continue to wait.

So students in regular ed can learn and play in updated, safe facilities, but students with disabilities cannot. Students who are on a strictly academic track can have spanking new science labs, but students in career & tech programs must learn in facilities from the 1980s. If you sense that this is an equity issue, you sense correctly.

The sad part is that many (most?) of our legislators probably don't even know that this change to the Tax Cap Formula has stalled. Like the rest of us, they imagine that once they vote for something, that something actually happens.

1 comment:

Steve Adams said...

Wow. I had no idea.

And not only do kids interested in career and tech not have modern facilities, they also get the message that their pursuits aren't valued. That's such an awful message to send someone.