ICC board hears of hard times ahead

VALATIE–James Baldwin, the district superintendent of Questar III/BOCES, addressed the Ichabod Crane School board at a special meeting Tuesday, October 20, discussing Governor David Paterson’s proposed cuts in school aid and the likelihood that federal economic stimulus money will not be available next year. “We are facing some very difficult fiscal (times),” he said.

Last week Governor Paterson announced dramatic cuts to the state budget over the next two years to close a projected $5 billion deficit. As part of those cuts, he proposed reducing aid to school districts by $480 million for the current school year. “I don’t think the money that has been there will be there, and how do we deal with that?” said Mr. Baldwin.

The legislature still must approve the cuts, and the governor has called the legislature into special session next week to address the deficit.

The Ichabod Crane District is planning to apply for a state grant to explore a “functional consolidation” of services with the nearby Schodack Central Schools, and Mr. Baldwin said Questar hopes to “be a facilitator and provider for those services.” But he did acknowledge that it may be in the best interest of the districts to pursue their shared services approach and not use Questar programs to save money.

He said that Ichabod Crane was way ahead of other districts in sharing services, adding, “I think there is much more that could be done; there is a tremendous amount of redundancy in the districts.” Questar III/BOCES provides educational and administrative support to school districts in Columbia, Rensselaer and Greene counties.

Mr. Baldwin also talked about national trends, saying that the federal government is focusing on teacher quality. He said 48 states have expressed interest in having national standards. Currently states set their own educational standards for teachers. He said that that would most likely “translate to national assessments,” which he said is a very controversial idea right now.

Mr. Baldwin mentioned the Race to the Top fund, a federal grant and schools reform program proposed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program… is a challenge to states and districts. We’re looking to drive reform, reward excellence and dramatically improve our nation’s schools,” Secretary Duncan said at the July announcement of the program.

Mr. Baldwin said that funds will be an incentive for states to look at school district achievement. “We tend to congratulate ourselves, and we need to be questioning ourselves,” said Mr. Baldwin of this state’s education system.

The ICC board will discuss Questar III and the specific programs the district uses at budget time next spring.

The next school regular board meeting will be November 10 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library.

More about the governor’s proposed cuts is at www.ny.gov/governor/press/press_1015091.html.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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