Grading the Candidates on Education Funding: Richard Hanna and Michael Arcuri, NY 24th Congressional District, US House of Representatives

Thanks to the Observer-Dispatch, we’ve got the local candidates’ views on education – grades and analysis below.

The New York 24th District of the United States House of Representatives covers parts or all of 11 counties in Central New York State. Incumbent Michael Arcuri [D] is being challenged by Richard Hanna [R].

The O-D asked candidates in some state and federal races about their proposals for education funding. Here are their answers:

Michael Arcuri, D-Utica

michael arcuri, congressman, 24th district NY

Education funding is a state issue, but if the federal government wants to regulate it, it cannot keep passing down unfunded mandates to states and localities.

Although the No Child Left Behind program has a role in creating standards to help students, it is woefully underfunded, which hurts local schools. No Child Left Behind takes away educators’ incentive for creativity and development of new methodologies for teaching children, and assumes that all children learn at the same pace.

NCLB’s cookie-cutter approach is also detrimental to school districts like Utica where many languages are spoken. I hope to see legislation reforming the No Child Left Behind program to encourage teacher creativity, so innovative programs created here in Utica can be shared with Auburn and Binghamton, and students aren’t just taught to the test.

I also believe the federal government must finally step up to the plate and fund programs like NCLB and IDEA sufficiently.

Grade: C-. Congressman Arcuri knows so little about education at both the local and federal levels that he repeats meaningless criticism and offers no plan for future development. Arcuri’s answer says little and means even less. His ignorance of education and education funding – both important issues to saving what’s left of a Central New York economy suffering from rapid atrophy – is apparent. That, and it expresses a near-total misunderstanding of No Child Left Behind.

On a positive note, Arcuri’s particular strain of ignorance is cheaper than most.

News to Rep. Arcuri: Education funding has been a federal issue since President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 [which he followed with the Higher Education Act in the same year]. A not insignificant number of schools in the 24th District – the district in which Arcuri has lived for years and has represented in Congress for two – rely on the Title 1 funds from that 43-year old legislation. To say education funding is wholly a “state issue” is disingenuous. As every taxpayer, politician and bake-saler knows, we fund our schools from the top down and the bottom up.

Arcuri’s line about No Child Left Behind taking away a teacher’s “incentive for creativity and development of new methodologies for teaching children” will tickle the unions’ fancies and play well with compassionate voters. Unfortunately, his criticism is baseless and misleading. Had he examples of how average teachers developed “new methodologies” for teaching children before NCLB, he might have an interesting point. But the evidence of 20 years of stagnant, unimpressive performance in Central New York schools renders Arcuri’s objections moot.

The truth is that Central New York’s teachers are not innovative researchers held down by NCLB. Blaming NCLB for our uninspiring performance is scapegoating; reducing the legislation to a barrage of tests to which teachers must submit ignores both the purpose of the Act and the failure of teachers/administrators to implement it properly. That some teachers “teach to the test” is the fault of district leaders and administrators, not No Child Left Behind.

Arcuri’s argument about NCLB being underfunded is sound, and his point about urban, multi-lingual districts resonates. But instead of parroting victimization and offering no plan for how to rectify NCLB’s shortcomings, a responsible Congressman should encourage districts to meet legislation halfway as they lobby for better funding that could lead to the successful implementation of education reforms.

We’d like our schools to be efficient, productive and cost-effective in Central New York. If we are to see those results, both sides have to accept responsibility – and our Congressman needs to facilitate that shared effort. Until then, we will continue to lose our most talented graduates and the jobs that come with our most promising businesses.

Central New York suffers from an economic wasting disease. Congressman Arcuri’s thoughts on education funding offer hollow moans and no solutions.

Richard Hanna, Republican

Richard Hanna, congressional candidate, 24th district NY

Current educational policy pits the property owner against the educational system. If we are to compete in the new global economy, it will be through the value- added nature of education.

We need a less adversarial way to pay for our public schools. New York state’s universities produce some of the finest students in the world – we must stop the brain drain.

Rebuilding our economy will help offer opportunities for these people to build their lives here. Tough economic times call for hard decisions, but education funding should be the last thing we cut. We must, however, spend our money more wisely and understand that more money does not necessarily mean a better education or produce better outcomes.

Many improvements could be made to the No Child Left Behind Act. It has not produced the outcomes it was expected to. Testing and accountability issues must be addressed.

Grade: A-. Hanna’s answer is short on specifics, but he’s got his eye on the right issues.

Property taxes weighed on Central New Yorkers even before the economy and fuel prices caused their own strains. Hostility between taxpayers and schools is building and Central New York can’t afford the tension.

Education is Central New York’s best bet for attracting employers and encouraging our brightest to stay in the area – or, as Hanna put it, to “stop the brain drain.” Cutting education funding straightaway should be our last resort. We will only begin to address our place in the global economy if we align our schools with successful education reform efforts and the needs of the economy while funding those efforts adequately.

Spending money “wisely” and looking at the results, including using “value-added” measures, will alleviate  tension between taxpayers and public schools while strengthening our local economy. We can’t just throw money at the problem – thankfully, both Hanna and Arcuri seem to agree there.

Hearing that Hanna seeks “improvements” to NCLB is welcome. The Act is flawed, especially with its implementation and support – its outcomes are, as Hanna states, different than what we expected. Testing, accountability, funding and implementation are critical issues for reforming and reauthorizing NCLB.

I wish that Hanna had mentioned explicitly that most important issue to education reform – teacher quality, and specifically, how we might improve teacher quality, hiring and retention in Central New York. Then again, I wish that any candidate in Central New York had spoken about teacher quality.

On the question of education funding, the advantage goes to Richard Hanna.

4 Responses to “Grading the Candidates on Education Funding: Richard Hanna and Michael Arcuri, NY 24th Congressional District, US House of Representatives”

  1. Jim Clark says:

    Quality education for the next generation of leaders and workers is imperative if the country has to keep up with ever increasing global standards.

    I can’t understand how anyone could undermine the NCLB.

  2. Colin says:

    I can think of one reason: it’s not affective and flawed to the core.

    Not that I agree with Arcuri; his statement is just political fluff. And his call for more funding is alarming. If anything, US schools are over-funded. But just because NCLB has lofty intentions doesn’t mean it’s any good and that we must not let it fail. There are better, more effective, less costly solutions.

  3. Klemm says:

    Just discovered your web site. Thanks for the information helping me catch up.

  4. Klemm,

    Thanks – hopefully you’ll keep reading.

    Rep. Arcuri, who is waiting for his victory to be official, has expressed sincere confusion about why he barely won. I’ll do my part to clear it up for him.

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