Betty Rosa on school aid, armed guards and equity in education

Betty Rosa
Betty Rosa
Andrew Kist
Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa

Betty Rosa on school aid, armed guards and equity in education

The Regents chancellor advocates for New York's students
March 13, 2018

New York state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa was elected to another five-year term on the board this week, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie applauding the move to "ensure the board has the strong leadership necessary to continue the legacy of our state's education system, which is rooted in excellence, high standards and an unwavering commitment to the academic achievement of all of our students."

How will Rosa actually continue to carry out that legacy? City & State's Frank G. Runyeon recently spoke with the chancellor about school funding in this year's state budget, putting armed guards in schools, and ensuring equity in education. 

C&S: Are you satisfied with the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for school aid in the state budget? There are some clear differences in the Board of Regents’ plan.

BR: The content of the budget is clearly based on many challenges and many concerns. So I appreciate that and take that into consideration. At the same time, my challenge as the chancellor is I have to create opportunities for students and the fiscal piece of it is critical. While some people may say money is not enough, it is very important. I would have to say that I am concerned about doing our work with limited resources. While I appreciate (the governor’s) fiscal situation, I have to advocate for the needs of the children.

C&S: When compared to previous years, are you more concerned?

BR: Absolutely. Absolutely. … We have safety concerns, as you well know. We’ve got to create additional resources for counseling and trauma. We have concerns beyond the safety of our schools, concerns about children and the challenges of getting them college and career ready. So yes, our challenges are greater. They have not decreased.

C&S: What do you think will change, realistically, with school aid before the budget is approved by the state Legislature?

BR: I think the Assembly and the Senate hopefully will create opportunities to support us in terms of our asks, our priorities, or the things that we have advanced. So I’m hopeful that the two houses will advocate on our behalf. The other hope is that this governor clearly understand the investment not only in college students but the investment that starts in early childhood straight through and that he would continue to support us.

C&S: What’s your position on armed guards in schools?

BR: I don’t have a problem with communities that make a determination that they want armed officers in schools. I have a problem with teachers or administrators being armed. I don’t want teachers armed in schools. They’re there to teach. Our principals are there to lead. There are safety officers and others that are there and trained, prepared to provide the safety aspect for our children. And I’d like to contain it so it stays in that space. Not that it become another burden or one more thing we put on teachers.

C&S: You’d be fine with armed officers in every school in New York?

BR: If that’s what the communities voted for, if that’s what the communities wanted. With a full understanding of all the implications, as a community decision, I would be fine.

C&S: When you were a principal or superintendent would you have advocated for armed officers in schools?

BR: You know what? It’s really interesting. I lived through the Bronx is burning. I lived through Fort Apache. I lived in Washington Heights when they sent in government troops. I do not think I would have wanted (armed officers) in my schools. Personally. That’s just me.

C&S: What’s the most pressing, unresolved problem in New York schools?

BR: Equity, definitely. Because when I go into some schools I see gorgeous buildings with many options in terms of classes. They’ve got music and instrumental. And then I go into other communities and I see broken chairs and tables that look like when I went to school. … Equity is the most challenging and pressing issue that we confront.

Frank Runyeon
Frank G. Runyeon
is City & State’s senior reporter. He covers state politics and investigations.