2001-01-13 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

Governor Pataki Delivers State Of The State For 2001

On Wednesday, January 3, 2001 we were invited to Albany to be at Governor George Pataki's State of the State address.

My mother, Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey, member of the NYS Board of Regents, my husband, Eugene Pasternak, and I attended the beginning of the 224th New York State legislative session in Albany. Governor Pataki addressed a packed house in the Assembly Chambers.  It was a joint session of the Senate and Assembly.

Governor Pataki presented his conceptual framework for the 2001 legislative session.  I was particularly interested in his educational proposals. However, in order to completely assess all the issues we will need to await the specific details of his budget message.

As the director of Lobbying and Legislation in Albany and at City Hall for nine years for the Professional Staff Congress/City University of New York, I am keenly aware of the fact that the budget figures that follow the State of the State address are in many ways more revealing than the speech itself.  During the next 30 days, there will be an opportunity to rectify any technical defects in the budget numbers.  After this, the race is on to try to adopt a budget as near to April 1 as is practical.

According to the governor, he has given extensive attention and resources to our schools.  He made an excellent point when he said, "someone once said that cherishing children is the mark of a civilized society. Certainly educating children is a reflection of how we cherish them.  Our commitment to New York's children has never been greater and it must not waiver this year."

Governor Pataki also emphasized that over the past four years he has "launched the largest campaign of new education - related investments in state history."  It is a fact that during the last four years New York has had record growth in state aid - more than three times the rate of inflation.

However, the governor also stressed that giving money to something doesn't solve the problem. His recommendation is to change the School Aid Formula.  It is his opinion that the changes he proposes will give greater flexibility to localities to spend the money where it is needed. The NYS Board of Regents and many other educational proponents have also recommended changing the School Aid Formula.

One program that has been very successful is the Teachers of Tomorrow initiative.  He plans to double the funding so that we can recruit, retain
and upgrade the skills of over 10,000 teachers this year and eventually increase this number to over 50,000 teachers over the next decade.  The governor feels that this is the best way to attract qualified teachers to all of our schools.  

Another aspect of the Teachers of Tomorrow plan would be to attract paraprofessionals who work daily in the classroom with our children to pursue the coursework and training required to become a licensed teacher.  This would make the paraprofessional program a true career ladder.

There are many other aspects of the governor's address which dealt with education which I will discuss in future columns.

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