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Idle hands: State legislators are once again ignoring regional high schools


Don’t believe the rumors that state lawmakers can’t get anything meaningful done in Albany.

Members of the Legislature passed along to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a measure to name yogurt as the official state snack. The bill was approved by the Senate last month and by the Assembly last week.

“The idea of making yogurt the state’s official snack came from a fourth-grade class from western New York,” according to a Wednesday story by the Associated Press. “New York is the nation’s top yogurt producer, making 741 million pounds of the dairy product last year, well above the 591 million produced by second-place California.”

The AP story reported that Gov. Cuomo has referred to New York state as the yogurt capital of the nation. So it’s difficult imagining that he wouldn’t be enthusiastic about granting this honor to the beloved treat.

Another item under consideration at the Capitol — an idea that also came from a fourth-grader — is naming the wood frog the official state amphibian. The measure was passed in the Senate last week and has moved to the Assembly. But according to an article Wednesday in the Democrat & Chronicle, the bill may not make it out of committee before legislators adjourn this week as the legislative session ends.

There is nothing wrong with lawmakers paying some attention to matters like these. They engage children in the legislative process, and it’s good to see them civically active.

But here’s something else that the Legislature hasn’t gotten around to passing: Allowing communities to create regional high schools. Education officials last year had remarked how lawmakers left Albany without granting them the authority to establish shared high schools, and some districts in the north country are looking to make this happen.

“Hermon-DeKalb, Heuvelton and Morristown central school districts funded a $30,000 study to explore the benefits of creating a regional high school. This would allow them to channel their resources on elementary education,” according to an editorial published in October in the Watertown Daily Times. “The study reported that forming a regional high school for students in seventh through 12th grades with its own governing body would collectively save the three districts more than $872,000. Not only would the districts save money, true value tax rates would decline for property owners in these areas, according to the study prepared by education consultant Phillip M. Martin. But no state law exists that would [permit] school districts to form an independent regional high school. Members of the New York state Legislature have so far failed to pursue a bill that would allow this to happen.”

This page has been urging lawmakers to take this cause up for the past year. And here we are coming to the end of yet another legislative session, and yet no action has been taken.

This lack of attention to what some school districts desperately need is unacceptable. If members of the Assembly and Senate leave Albany again without addressing this problem, they need to hear what constituents think about them not doing their jobs. Many legislators are seeking re-election this year, and we cannot let this shirking of responsibility go unchallenged.

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