February 26, 2014

BOCES: A smart investment

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
boces offers cost effective services

If you knew your investment would have a 93 percent success rate, wouldn't you think that was a pretty smart business venture?

Ninety-three percent: That's the graduation rate for students enrolled in BOCES Career and Technical Education programs across the state. And once CTE students graduate, their next steps are equally impressive. According to a follow-up survey of the Class of 2012, 62 percent of the state's CTE graduates went on to college; 33 percent went straight to a job; and 5 percent entered the military.

"There's all this talk about preparing kids to be college- and career-ready," said Rockland BOCES TA President Debbie Kydon. "It's not one or the other. It's both. And we are doing both very well."

Kydon was among nearly 200 advocates who attended BOCES Lobby Day on Tuesday to make the case for greater support for BOCES programming. Like many lobby day delegations, Kydon's team included students, the BOCES superintendent, board president and teachers.

Having multi-faceted teams of BOCES supporters makes a big impression on local lawmakers, according to NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "You really can help change the course of the budget," Pallotta said. "Make sure you share your personal stories so your legislators know why you're here."

Rockland BOCES Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico urged lawmakers to reauthorize legislation that allows BOCES to contract with out-of-state school districts. She said the law, which was enacted two years ago but expires this June, has proven to be cost effective for more than a dozen BOCES.

Rockland BOCES, for example, was able to continue offering an automotive class and a food service class after enrolling 15 New Jersey students. "It's a win-win," she said. "We get tuition for the out-of-state students. It stabilizes the program and doesn't cost New York a dime. In our case, we were going to have to close two programs."

Others strongly made the case for more K-12 funding so that school districts can continue sending students to BOCES programs. "Every year we're losing more and more students," said Saratoga Adirondack BOCES Educators Association's Cliff Brosnan.

Between the loss of state aid and the property tax cap - being challenged by NYSUT in court - school districts are so hard-pressed financially that they're limiting BOCES enrollment. Districts that used to send 10 students are only sending five students, Brosnan said. "Kids are losing out."

Lawmakers listened as students told them why they were passionate about each of their BOCES programs: culinary, cosmetology, horse science management, performing art and aviation.

"It gives us a chance to do something we love to do," said Diana Mancia, a cosmetology student at Nassau BOCES. "It doesn't feel like school work."

BOCES advocates also urged lawmakers to support a wide assortment of bills that would help BOCES remain economically viable and even expand offerings:

  • a bill that would increase the aidable salary for BOCES CTE programs . The current aid formula has not changed since 1990 so the state only provides aid for the first $30,000 of a BOCES instructor's salary;
  • a bill that would allow BOCES to establish reserve funds to cover long-term costs;
    a bill that would provide BOCES building aid for school safety expenses like metal detectors and security devices; and
  • a bill that would provide preschool special education programs with a desperately needed cost of living adjustment.