One of New York's most cost-efficient educational enterprises is — inexplicably — facing the governor's budget ax. New York's 37 BOCES have a long, proven history of helping districts make programs more affordable, showing positive results for students and serving children with a wide variety of abilities. Despite the fact that BOCES aid is just 2 percent to 3 percent of the total state aid paid to districts, budget-cutters are targeting its students, programs and educators.
"New York needs a knowledge-based economy and BOCES is a key component of that mission," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira at BOCES Lobby Day at the Capitol. "Seeing the educators, students and administrators here to advocate together should send the state a clear message — BOCES works!"
Hundreds of BOCES advocates — teachers, students and superintendents — filled legislators' offices, providing facts and figures about their effective, cost-saving programs.
"We educate those kids who are autistic or who have major emotional issues," Mark Chadderdon, president of the Erie 2 BOCES Faculty Association who teaches in a classroom of severely emotionally disturbed students, told a legislative staffer. "Our districts cannot afford to educate that one child, but together, through BOCES, they can. Why cut a program that is saving money for everyone?"
Pam Modzel, president of the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES Faculty Association, explained to legislators that her BOCES is filled with success stories. "For us, it's all about the students. Our students have gone into the military, to community colleges and careers. We have businesses calling us because so many of our former students are successful in the area."
One point every NYSUT activist made: There are ways out of the state's fiscal jam that don't hurt affordable programs for students and schools, including increasing taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers.
Cliff Brosnan is a leader in NYSUT's BOCES advocacy efforts and, like many of his colleagues, is facing a dismal situation at the Saratoga Adirondack BOCES, where management has begun to prepare layoff lists.
"My message to legislators today is that our state needs to increase revenue," he said, "to maintain quality programs that deliver good services, produce quality students and help keep our state economy vibrant. Everyone in this state needs to pay their fair share."