HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Weeks away from the start of a new school year, a bill that could help transform one of the most troubled school districts in New York state awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
But one of the bill’s sponsors is alarmed and fears that signature may not come, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday.
“We have if not the worst, one of the worst school districts in the United States,” Assemblywoman Taylor Raynor Darling said back in June.
It was a passionate plea, followed by a rare unanimous vote and elation.
Months after a vote in Albany to bring unprecedented monitoring to the Hempstead School District, where for years fewer than half the students graduate, the bill has still not been signed into law.
“Gov. Cuomo, this could be the hugest part of your legacy. Beyond the parks, beyond all the other work that you do for our infrastructure, to be able to save the lives of countless people,” Darling said.
Darling, the bill’s sponsor, said she has learned the governor is reluctant to sign the bill due to its precedent. Money, $3.5 million to be exact, was not earmarked in the budget to pay three part-time monitors for five years.
Assembly leaders have offered to foot the bill until it’s budgeted next year, but the governor’s staff says the bill is under review, along with hundreds of others.
“This is not run-of the-mill legislation. This is 9,000 children,” said Melissa Figueroa, a former Hempstead School Board trustee.
Supporters call it a no-brainer.
“All the stars are aligned and the one person who stands in the way of the fate of these children, changing the course of the direction of their fate is Gov. Cuomo, so I’m very concerned,” Figueroa said.
Co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Thomas said he isn’t alarmed by the review. He remains hopeful.
“Yes, very hopeful, especially since his office did reach out to us and expressed great concern about what was going on in Hempstead and that he wants to try and help,” Thomas said.
A spokesman for the governor told Gusoff the issues are “complex and require a thorough and thoughtful review with appropriate input from the community.”
And then there’s the elected board, which opposes veto-empowered monitors.
“We think it is, first, both punitive and political. It was done under the veil of darkness and secrecy,” said Hempstead School Board trustee Carmen Ayala.
“This district has made demonstrative improvement. We have had our distinguished educator here for two years, so we have had monitoring,” added Hempstead School Board president David Gates.
Supporters argue it sets no precedent, adding the Hempstead crisis is unique and decades in the making. Long Island business and educational leaders have sent a letter of support.
“If this legislation does not pass, I don’t know what other hope there is for our children in Hempstead or the community at large,” Figueroa said.
Supporters are canvasing for petition signatures urging the governor to sign the bill now, in time to appoint monitors for the start of the school year.
School officials claim there was a 61% graduation rate this June, an improvement over 37% two years ago. To see CBS2’s documentary “37%,” please click here.