Stirpe: Keeping our kids’ safety, education first as they head back to school

Assemblyman Al Stirpe

It’s almost that time of the year again. Right now, the stores are stocked with pencils, folders and composition notebooks as parents and their kids receive supply lists, homeroom assignments and class schedules. Come September, school buses will hit the roads, ready to transport students across New York State for another year of learning.

Back-to-school season can be exciting, but it can also be a nerve-wracking time for some students, especially the youngsters entering kindergarten, kids heading into middle or high school for the first time or those who’ve transferred to a new district. But while it may be scary at first, students should know that they can find support from their teachers, administrators and peers as they progress on their educational journey.

I’m also working hard to support students and schools in Central New York and beyond. This past legislative session, I helped pass a number of measures to help ensure our kids’ safety and provide our schools with the resources they need to best serve students. To that end, I co-sponsored and helped pass a new law allowing municipalities to implement a school bus camera program (Ch. 145 of 2019).

Previously, drivers who illegally passed a stopped school bus displaying a red visual signal could only be issued a ticket by a police officer who witnessed the violation. With the new program, municipalities can install cameras on school buses as well as stationary cameras and issue fines to drivers who illegally pass.

It’s estimated that 50,000 drivers illegally pass school buses across the state every day, which is simply unacceptable.[1] Parents shouldn’t have to fear for their children’s life at the bus stop. This law will help hold irresponsible drivers accountable for their negligent actions.

To support our students and teachers, I helped pass the 2019-20 state budget, which provides public schools with a $1 billion increase in education funding for a total of $27.8 billion. Additionally, the budget allocates $1.5 million for junior high school mental health grants and $96.6 million for public libraries.

To empower local school districts and teachers, the state budget also removes the mandate that state-created and administered assessments be used for teacher and principal evaluations. A curriculum that works for Central New York won’t be the same as one that works for students in the Bronx or North Country. This measure allows our educators to do what they do best ­– teach our kids – instead of following a cookie-cutter approach that’s geared toward high-stakes testing.

As we approach the new school year, I’ll continue fighting to ensure our schools are funded, our educators receive proper support and that our kids are safe so they can receive the best education possible. Meanwhile, I hope all Central New York students are ready to learn as we gear up for what’s sure to be another exciting school year.

As always, my door is open to anyone who has questions about this or any other community issue. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 315-452-1115 or StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

[1] safeny.ny.gov/opsafstp.htm

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