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Education advocates give state mostly failing grades

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

New York isn't providing the education it could to the state's students, according to a new report card prepared by the Alliance for Quality Education.The longtime education activist group says the state is moving the right way on Pre-K and on its favored community schools. Those provide not only an education but wraparound school and social services in the building. 

The report says where the state falls down is providing strong educational outcomes for students. The AQE says schools need more money, something that is always fought over in Albany when the budget is put together.

The group's report card says the state doesn't provide evenly quality education across the state nor does it ensure uniformly high quality teaching.

"We do need more funding, but we also needs parents and teachers and communities to be involved and excited about school," says Gayla Thompson, an AQE lead organizer and a member of the board of Citizen Action.

Thompson says Pre-K should be mandatory for everyone.

"The earlier you engage a child in learning, the longer they will stay within that process, because your mind is open. It's free. You're engaged. You're learning about other students. You're learning about yourself. You're learning that reading is fun. That drawing, science, math, everything you're doing at the age of four is exciting," Thompson says.

Thompson says she favors neighborhood schools because the community will keep an eye on young people and what they are doing. She says the current system of busing kids all over Buffalo can make it hard for parents and community members to find out how students are doing and to talk with teachers.

Buffalo school board member John Licata wants Albany to set up a demonstration project here to start all students in school at the age of four. He is trying to put together a coalition on all levels of government to push the plan through to give kids that early start.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.