More students would meet state academic standards if they had a longer school day as well as after-hours access to their schools, public officials said Thursday during a forum on the needs of schoolchildren.
A pledge to convince the governor that more money is needed for education was also made by the speakers -- Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and State Sen. Byron W. Brown, all Buffalo Democrats.
They spoke to 20 residents at New Hope Baptist Church on Richmond Avenue, where the sponsor of the forum, the Alliance for Quality Education, distributed leaflets telling how to put pressure on Gov. George E. Pataki and Legislature leaders to pass a state budget with increases in funding for education.
Asked by one parent, Antoinette Guercio, how many students might be harmed by increased pressure to meet state standards, Hoyt said he favors the higher Regents standards but thinks they should be introduced in steps, with full funding to do the job.
"I'm for a longer school year, or a longer school day," he said. "And we need professional development of teachers to help our students meet these standards."
Regina Eaton, state director of the Alliance for Quality Education, agreed that a longer school day may be needed.
"A kid may need an hour to perform a half-hour task," she said. "This is a huge problem."
Eve said schools also should be open after hours, and even on Saturdays, to allow students to spend more time in mastering English and math requirements. Schools could be opened after school hours by staggering the schedules of school engineers, he said.
"You can call your School Board members, who are negotiating a very lucrative contract with school engineers right now, and tell them not to sign that contract unless it allows schools to open after school hours," he said.
After a lengthy discussion of the many obstacles to student achievement, Brown said, "What I've heard tonight is really reflective of a late state budget, and the governor proposing not to increase funding for education."
Brown encouraged residents to exert pressure to pass a budget by contacting the offices of the governor and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.
Hoyt said Democrats in the Assembly want to increase funding for public education by $1 billion and the governor has been balking. He and Eve blamed Pataki for the overdue state budget.
"The governor has chosen not to be part of the process," Eve said. "He prefers to pick and choose and line-veto whatever items he doesn't like in the budget" that will eventually emerge from the Legislature.
Eaton said the late state budget is forcing school boards to adopt budgets "in a vacuum," guessing what state aid will be and postponing the hiring of new teachers until just before Labor Day.