Assemblyman Michael Benedetto has some homework to do before heading back to Albany in January.
He was recently appointed as the new chairman on the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education, replacing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Long Island City.
The first issue that Benedetto will be facing as chair is allocating proper funding in the state budget, which is always determined in the first months of the new year. Second to health, education takes up the most sizeable chunk of the NYS budget at roughly 25 percent.
“What we’re looking to determine now is which education programs in the state are in need of funding the most,” Benedetto said, mentioning he has a lot to look into as far as where the money needs to go.
His guidance for that decision will come from meetings with both NYS Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as well as NYC Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza.
After the money is sorted out, another issue that Benedetto and his committee aim to tackle is the criteria in which teachers are evaluated.
“Evaluation is not easy,” the chairman said, mentioning how it’s difficult to find a balance between tipping the criteria’s scale from principal observation to standardized testing.
He went on to explain how the bias of a principal should not over weigh-in on a teacher’s evaluation. On the other side he also admitted that not all students learn and perform in a standardized testing format.
“It’s something we have to look into, trying to create a one-size-fits-all formula is foolish and almost impossible,” Benedetto said.
Being that he spent 30 years as a Bronx educator, including the early years at Our Lady of Assumption in Pelham Bay, with the bulk working with disabled students at P.S. 160 in Co-op City, his understanding of teacher evaluations come from firsthand experience.
Even though he retired 14 years ago, Benedetto intends to reinvestigate the changes in special education and its benefits.
At the time, P.S. 160 had one of the city’s largest special education units.
“Now there seems to be a merging of special and general education and that’s something we’re going to look more into,” he said.
Other issues facing the education of the state’s studentds are the future standing of the city’s eight specialized schools, two of which are in the Bronx.
These public schools handle enrollment through the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, which is the one and only way for students to apply to these prestigious, taxpayer-funded schools.
Critics claim that the entry tests discriminate against student diversity, which is also something Benedetto wants to examine.
One item that was a major issue when it was originally unveiled is the common core curriculum, he said.
“It had issues with its initial application,” Benedetto said, suggesting it was rolled out too abruptly.
“But it had it’s moment and I see it as a dead issue at this point in time,” he explaiaed.
Between budgeting, teacher evaluations, special and private school equivalency, and general education, Benedetto willingly admits that he will have to hit the books.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m eager to take it on,” the assemblyman said.