April 06, 2009

VIDEO: Education Commissioner Richard Mills

Source: RA 2009

 

Mills says fed funds must be used to save jobs

Federal stimulus funds must be used by school districts to save jobs and improve student achievement — not for tax relief or to build reserves, State Education Commissioner Richard Mills assured delegates.

Speaking to the RA for the 14th year before he retires in June, Mills received a warm welcome and made it clear school districts will be expected to revise their school budget plans before statewide votes May 19.

"These are extraordinary funds that are not to be used in ordinary ways," Mills said.

Another prize on the table is the federal $5 billion "Race to the Top" competitive challenge grant program. "It's an opportunity without precedent intended to drive reform to new levels," Mills said. "New York is a leader — we belong in the race. And when we do it, it will be WITH all of you, BECAUSE of you."

Mills said winning the competitive grants will take bold initiatives like the ones Vice President Maria Neira talked about in the speech preceding his.

Mills thanked NYSUT for being such a strong partner in efforts to raise standards and end the achievement gap. He thanked the countless individual teachers who have welcomed him into their classrooms. Of the many visits, he recalled the New York City school teacher who used one math problem for an extraordinary lesson and a kindergarten teacher who turned a child's offer of a cupcake to the commissioner into a math question.

Neira presented him with a warm tribute and a crystal Steuben apple. "You've always been an important, dependable ally — a tenacious advocate for higher standards for all students," Neira said.