Today, Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) called on the Governor and the state legislature to use the 2006 legislative session to address, once and for all, the state's school funding crisis. The Senator made his remarks a week after the Governor proposed his latest budget -- a budget that further illustrates the state's broken school aid funding system.
"Last week, the Governor unveiled a budget that he said holds a 'record increase' in school funding," said Sen. Valesky. "But when you look at the numbers you quickly see that this budget severely short changes education, fails our students and ignores the funding crisis. In addition, this lack of funding will again mean higher property taxes by this summer."
Senator Valesky noted that if the Governor's proposed budget is approved, 15 school districts in Central New York will see a drop in state aid -- including 8 districts with students in his Senate District. Of the districts in Central New York with increases, almost all will be at less than inflation. This is consistent with a statewide average increase in total aid of 1.8%.
Sen. Valesky was joined by parents, community members and representatives of Citizen Action at Seymour Magnet School to highlight the disconnect between the resources needed to supply a "sound, basic education" and the funds allocated in the Governor's Budget.
"The Near West Side is a poor community that has to deal with many issues. In order to break the cycle of crime and poverty we need to invest in the schools," said Gary Bonaparte, parent and Syracuse community member. "These schools are a reflection of our community. We need to give them the funding they require. Our children deserve it and future demands it."
"It is astounding that the Governor is proposing to cut funding for 8 of the school districts with students in Senate District 49," said Michelle Myers, a representative of Citizen Action of New York, a statewide organization dedicated to social, racial, economic and environmental justice with a chapter in Central New York. "These cuts would mean greater pressure on area superintendents to cut educational programs, while overburdened homeowners face increases in their school taxes. We praise Senator Valesky for taking the lead in getting adequate funding for area schools through his support of the Schools for New York's Future Act."
Sen. Valesky added that this nearly flat increase comes at a time when the state has been told by the courts it is underfunding education and to drastically increase funding to meet the constitutional requirement of "sound, basic education." A recent study found that approximately 78 percent of New York's school districts need more funds to meet this requirement.
"There is no rhyme or reason to the Pataki school budget," said Margarit Deihl an AQE representative from Syracuse. AQE is a statewide coalition of over 230 organizations united to support the Schools for New York's Future Act, legislation to provide increased funding to school districts throughout the state, including in Central New York. "It cuts many school districts, and gives an overall increase that falls behind inflation. It does nothing to fix the broken school funding system that fails to prepare our kids for jobs in the 21st Century."
Sen. Valesky concluded, "As we begin a new legislative session it is my hope that the Governor stop appealing the court order and start to focus on what we can do to improve our schools and better prepare our children for the future."