Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Follow-up: results of New Rochelle schools survey

I previously posted about this survey designed to gauge voter sentiment regarding school priorities to be considered in developing next year's budget.  No surprise about the results, but the choices offered to respondents were limited.  For example, there were no questions about whether taxpayers wanted union contracts reopened and renegotiated to rein in the cost of benefits.
More than half of the respondents to an online survey by school district officials said maintaining small class sizes was their most important priority.
New Rochelle school district administrators had posted the six-question survey to the district's website for a week last month.
Their aim was to learn what parents, residents and taxpayers thought they, the administrators, ought to be focusing on as they crafted the budget for the 2011-12 school year.
Of the 528 respondents, two-thirds said they are parents or guardians of school-age children.
Keeping class sizes from ballooning was the top concern, with 53.2 percent of the respondents selecting it.
After that, 44.4 percent said preserving advanced placement and other honors classes was most important.
About one-third of the respondents cited having the latest technology in classrooms as their top priority.
"I am not surprised to learn that class size is of critical importance to most people (who) responded to the survey," Superintendent of Schools Richard Organisciak said. "That has historically been the case in this district."
Also, 57.2 percent of the people who answered the survey said it was concerns for programs being added, reduced or eliminated that drove them to the polls to vote on the budget.
A bit less than a quarter of the respondents said it was the prospect of their taxes increasing or decreasing that motivated them to vote.
This assessment of the community's education priorities comes as school officials face daunting challenges in crafting their budgets.
As costs continue to rise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed cutting $1.5 billion in state aid to schools.
New Rochelle stands to lose $4.3 million if the cuts are enacted.
Discussing the governor's proposal recently, Organisciak said the loss of state aid, combined with other factors, could cost the district some jobs.
"We're going to lose good people," he said.

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