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Upstate New York: come for the skiing, stay for the schools


May 19, 2010 - 0 Comments

It’s no secret that the ongoing economic crisis has left state and local governments in a bit of a budget conundrum. Tax revenues are shrinking, and the cost to educate students and provide social services is only increasing. One place in particular where this is especially true is Monroe County, which includes Rochester and its surrounding areas, in upstate New York.

According to a recent article about the state of the public school system in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the average cost to educate a student through the public school system is well over $100,000. Per year, the current cost to educate a student is $16,500 and with the proposed school budgets for 2010-11, that will rise to about $17,000 per student next year.

The $1.4 billion that the county already spends to educate its more than 80,000 students is still not enough. The budget crisis has caused the cutting of electives, the laying off of teachers and the increase in class sizes.

For an area with a dropout rate of only 4%, and where 50% of the students go on to a four-year college, dropping electives and increasing class size could be alleviated through the use of technology. Video teleconferencing (VTC) is being used across the county to bring high quality educational experiences to students while cutting costs for school districts and local government.

Sharing teachers and other resources via video, multiple classes across the county can be taught by a single teacher in one location. This enables schools to get the most out of each highly qualified teacher and all of their academic resources. This means schools can join together and offer electives, AP courses and other subjects that may have not had the significant interest and enrollment necessary to make them feasible on one campus alone.

There are other ways that VTC can save money for educational institutions. By conducting professional development activities, schools can train teachers without closing schools or finding substitutes. Schools cans also bring in experts and conduct live, interactive virtual fieldtrips without having to pay for and lose instructional time due to transportation. Educators are also able to record and provide content via web, podcasting and other modalities students can access when not at school – this also removes instructional down time during bad weather, flu outbreaks and other situations where classes would be cancelled and the school year subsequently extended.

For schools in places like Monroe County, VTC will break down the walls between students and a better, cheaper education while helping to alleviate the budget woes of a region. Now that’s a new way of teaching.

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