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Smith taps Stavisky as chair of ed panel

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Longtime education advocate state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) was named the new chairwoman of the state Senate Higher Education Committee, incoming Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) announced Monday.

Stavisky, a former teacher, has served as the ranking minority member of the committee and was widely expected to receive the nomination from Smith. Nonetheless, Stavisky said she was excited about the opportunity.

“I look forward to serving the people of our state as chair of the Committee on Higher Education. The challenges will be great, but so will the opportunities,” Stavisky said in a statement. “We want to ensure that college remains affordable, accessible and high quality. I want to thank Sen. Malcolm Smith and I look forward to working with him and a united Democratic conference in the years ahead.”

Smith made the announcement during a news conference Monday morning.

“Each of the senators I’m appointing today brings a breadth of experience and expertise that will help plot a new course for the state Senate and reform the way business is done in Albany,” Smith said. “I am pleased to work side−by−side with such talented and dedicated public servants in the new Senate majority.”

Although Stavisky was away from her office on vacation this week and not immediately available to comment on her plans for the coming legislative session by press time, she told TimesLedger Newspapers before her recent re−election that higher education was her top priority.

Stavisky stressed the need for investment in higher education, contending that putting money into CUNY and SUNY schools would not only help constituents build their skill sets, but ultimately come back to the state.

“Every study has shown that when there’s a period of economic turmoil, more people go back to school,” she said in early November. “I’m convinced that enrollment at CUNY and SUNY is going to go up. Where else can you get such a first−rate education at such a low cost? It will come back in the form of income tax, it will come back many, many times.”

She also said she hopes to challenge the current system of mayoral control of the city school system, which she believes has flaws. She said parental involvement needs to be bolstered while curriculums need to be refocused to place less of an emphasis on test preparation.

“I think testing has really gotten way out of hand. Children should be taught for of the sheer joy of being able to learn new things and not just taught how to do well on a standardized tests,” she said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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