Today’s news:

Editorial: Open the doors for GED

In the ideal world, every student would stay in school until he or she has earned a high school diploma. Without this piece of paper, it is difficult, nearly impossible, to find full-time work that pays more than the minimum wage.

Sadly, in New York City, for a myriad of reasons, thousands of children quit school before getting a high school diploma. For these students, the best hope for building a future lies in obtaining a GED, or general equivalency diploma. With this in hand, they have a chance of getting a better paying job or even getting into a college or trade school.

It makes sense then the city should do everything possible to help students get their GED. But in Queens, there are too few sites that offer GED testing. York College is overwhelmed. Students are being placed on long waiting lists while their future is put on hold.

Borough President Shulman has asked the state to open additional testing center in Queens. In the interest of helping returning students to begin building a future, we hope the legislature will pay serious attention to her request.

Editorial: Let teachers teach

When teachers return to the city's public schools next week, for the first time they will have the authority to suspend unruly students for as long as four days. They were given this new power under the Safe Schools Against Violence Act, which Gov. Pataki signed in July. We fear that administrators, teachers and parents will find this new power is at best a mixed blessing.

The “get-tough-on-the-bad-kids”crowd is, no doubt, delighted. Some teachers will likewise welcome the ability to rid their classrooms of disruptive students. But the principals of the city's schools are less than thrilled. In typical Albany fashion, the legislature passed this unfunded bill without giving a thought to its practical implications. Principals and district superintends are scrambling to find classroom space to house the suspended students and teachers to supervise these children.

Unless the time is used productively, the four-day suspensions will do more harm than good. We wonder what will be achieved if the suspended student returns after four days of wasted time only to find that he or she is now four days behind in class work. This is a recipe for failure. And yet if there are no classrooms and no teachers for these students, what do the lawmakers think will happen?

We also question whether it makes sense to involve teachers so deeply in the discipline process. In the city’s public school system, teachers have always had the option of sending a disruptive student to the principal’s or the dean’s office. The administrators are trained to handle a broad range of discipline problems. The Board of Education has a detailed policy for handling misbehavior with options that ranged from a simple warning to suspension, expulsion and even arrest.

There is also the possibility that the authority to suspend will be abused. Not all teachers are fair. Before real harm is done and young lives are irreparably damaged, the Board of Education must create strict standards for suspending students and teachers must be held accountable for their actions. Parents must be given the opportunity to question and challenge the decision to suspend.

Most important, teachers must be teachers, not the deans of discipline. We fail to see the value or the need for this change in policy. Let teachers teach. Let others do the disciplining.

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