Long Island Schools have an admirable goal of getting their students to college. In fact, most mission statements state that academic excellence is the primary goal for each district. In fact, approximately 88% of Long Island Schools graduates enroll in colleges or universities. But what about the remaining 12%? While some don’t make it all the way through high school, others would like to enter the world of work, and receive vocational training along the way. Many Long Island Schools students would like to become anything from beauticians to massage therapists, plumbers to electricians, child care workers to welders. Unfortunately, two Long Island Schools, located in the Patchogue-Medford school district and a part of Suffolk County, NY, are experiencing such a drastic cutbacks that they are forced to turn students away from the education they desire the most. In fact, self-employment or entering a trade looks increasingly attractive to students at a time when corporate jobs offer less and less security.
Many Long Island Schools students who want to enter a trade or even own their own business, feel discouraged. Many students are blocked from receiving the training they need to begin their chosen profession. The cash-strapped Patchogue-Medford School District recently informed approximately 60 of these Long Island Schools students that it can't afford to enroll them in BOCES job-training courses next fall, despite state regulations entitling teens to such programs. BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) offers various programs for general, adult, special, emotionally and medically-fragile Long Island Schools students.
Board members of Patchogue-Medford school district, parents, and students recently met at a monthly board meeting to discuss, in part, the cutbacks to the BOCES program in place throughout New York, and Long Island Schools are no exception. “Do you realize you are taking this away from the students?" one Long Island Schools student asked members of the district's board of education. She also pointed out that administrators are getting raises in the newly approved budget. The board voted to hold the line against reinstating full funding of the BOCES program.
One of at least 15 parents who attended the meeting to complain about the situation and said that she and other Long Island Schools parents will appeal to the state education commissioner to get their children the training they want.
If forced by the state to reinstate the BOCES option for all students who want it, Superintendent Michael Mostow said the district would have to lay off teachers and raise class sizes that are already too large.
One 11th-grader said many classmates share this view. “They want to work for themselves, " said the Long Island Schools student.
School district officials voiced regret over the situation, but added that they have little choice. Patchogue-Medford trimmed its proposed budget, and the cuts included $720,000 in BOCES tuition. Voters have rejected spending plans twice.
State regulations require school districts, including those in Long Island Schools, to provide students with up to two years of BOCES occupational training, free of charge.
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U. S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit Long Island Schools