The legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.
School District Superintendent Carol Cuomo was the primary presenter during the hour long discussion held in the Anne Stevens Room of the library and co-hosted by the Institute of the North. The topic was Article VII and the discussion was facilitated by Mike Schwaiger, a constitutional scholar as identified on the calendar of events at the library website.
The word “basic” seemed to capture the theme of the discussion. Mr. Havelock described the evolution of the basic education in the 1950’s at the eighth grade level to a current world view that suggests a two, or even four year post-secondary level as a minimum requirement of a basic education. Some effort was also expended to suggest the pre-school formative years should be included as a basic educational requirement on the basis of brain growth and a child’s natural propensity to learn during the early formative years.
Not unexpectedly, funding issues were identified as a major barrier to the successful implementation of a basic education as it is currently accepted, to include kindergarten thru the high school, so the idealistic preschool and post-secondary discussion returned to a realistic discussion of modern efforts to meet today’s educational challenges.
Broadband connectivity and distance learning emerged as a conventional solution to the problems as they currently exist, although Mrs. Cuomo stressed the need for a qualified educator to be physically available to guide, motivate and assist the student. She identified the issue of disinterested or otherwise handicapped parenting as a rational for the need of an on-site educator.
Federal unfunded mandates, the very first topic discussed, were disparaged by nearly everyone present. By the time the discussion concluded however, it was apparent that the villain wasn’t necessarily the villain. Rather, the villain was the fact that the mandate was unfunded.
Walking down the steps while exiting the library this question came to mind: “ARE WE ARE ALL TENTHERS NOW?”