By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The federal budget received a failing grade from the Grand Island superintendent of schools at the May 15 Board of Education meeting.
The day before the budget was presented, Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham raised the caution flag to board trustees.
Graham, who spoke a few months ago about his concerns with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of the Department of Education, warned the board that he feared the revised federal education budget would include $10 billion in cuts, that vary across programs, such as after-school programs for the poor and teacher training programs. He listed numerous programs he anticipated would be "cut significantly" if not eliminated outright.
Graham said the cuts were intended "to shed those dollars and to encourage monies being shifted into a program called FOCUS," or Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, which he likened to Race to the Top in design.
"I think we all know what happened with Race to the Top," Graham said, describing a system in which "states competed for federal dollars" when money was tight.
"Ultimately, this is a terrible idea," Graham said. "It's another example of the federal government shifting public education financial resources to private and for-profit entities, and that's very, very important for all of us who are advocates for public education. This is not good news." He urged those listening to work together "to protect public education for all students."
Trustee Rich D'Agostino echoed Graham when he directed his comments to those in attendance, "especially the high school seniors."
"Please be careful what you believe in. Register to vote," he said. "Because what Dr. Graham explained robs you, steals you, like a thief in the night. Steals your future, steals your future earnings. The disbelief in public education is fascism, plain and simple. It is ruled by corporate America and the 1 percent. Do not fall for it, do not believe in it, it has no basis in good."
Yusuf Mojawalla of Grand Island High School reported on what he called "two awesome events" at the school. One, the junior class prom, took place at the Radisson on Grand Island. The other was DECA national competition, attended by students from Grand Island High School, Mojawalla among them.
Mojawalla said he recently returned from his first meeting of the executive board of New York State DECA in Albany after his election to office earlier in the year. While in Anaheim, California, he competed in business-related events against DECA students from all over the United States and the world.
"Even though it was a bit overwhelming to see over 200 kids in my event, I gained a great deal of experience, which will really give me an edge next year in DECA, but not only that, in my future career as well," Mojawalla told the board. He said the trip to nationals in Anaheim was made possible by support from the board and the school's business programs.