Must Come Through for Our Schools
Assemblyman Steven Sanders
August 3, both houses of the Legislature adopted Governor Pataki’s
education funding proposal which increases State dollars to school
districts by $382 million as part of the overall State budget.
As soon as the Legislature completed action on the budget, the
Governor immediately attacked the budget as incomplete and insufficient.
The Governor, of course, was attacking his own education budget
recommendation, because that is exactly what the Legislature passed.
Every one of the 700 school districts would get exactly what the
Governor proposed–not one penny more or one penny less.
So how could the Governor attack his own proposal and why on earth
did the Legislature finally agree to a budget amount which was
$1 billion short of what the State Board of Regents had proposed
and over $1.3 billion short of the Assembly’s proposal?
When the Governor originally made his education recommendation
of a $382 million increase in January along with his other budget
proposals, we in the Assembly majority said that it was woefully
inadequate to meet the educational challenges of school districts
from around the State. We were joined in that opposition by virtually
every education organization. However, the Governor not only refused
to budge from his position, he even refused to meet with Assembly
and Senate leaders to work out a compromise so that the budget
could go forward.
For six long months we tried to engage the Governor in a dialogue
and we were met with stony indifference and silence. When the
Governor did speak out, he threatened to veto any spending that
the Legislature engaged in over his proposed numbers and even
suggested that the State might go the entire year without any
budget in place.
With time running out and the school year soon to begin, we in
the Legislature decided to pass the only thing that the Governor
legally could not veto—namely his own education budget increase—and
by so doing at least set in place a small increase to school districts.
The spectacle of the Governor criticizing his own budget for school
aid illustrates the duplicity and dishonesty of this Governor
in the budget process.
We will continue to press the Governor to endorse our landmark
two-year plan to ensure schools have the resources they need and
the ability to plan for the future. The Assembly’s budget resolution
give schools the financial information they need to plan timely
budgets and prepare programs that meet high standards;
iaddresses the Supreme Court ruling that struck down New York’s
school aid formula as unconstitutional;
$91 million for Instructional Computer Technology Aid, including
a $50 million grant program for education technology;
most of the Governor’s plan to change the building aid formula,
which could leave school districts with half-finished building
projects and waste already invested taxpayer dollars; and
our commitment to fully fund the Assembly’s landmark LADDER program,
which, since its implementation in 1998, has helped schools meet
higher standards, reduce class size, update computer technology,
recruit and train highly-skilled teachers, and ensure that each
district has access to pre-k and full-day kindergarten.
More than ever before, we need responsible leadership in Albany.
Hopefully during the next few weeks Governor Pataki will finally
come back to Albany, return to his senses and provide the kind
of engagement and leadership in the budget process that the education
community and our 3.3 million school children need from a Governor.
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