As Governor Eliot Spitzer prepares to unveil his 2008 blueprint for New York State, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) continued meeting with Long Island's educational community to make sure that the region is collectively prepared to fight for its fair share.
This weekend, he joined the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association (SCSSA) at their Advocacy Workshop to speak with them about the potential budgetary goals of Governor Spitzer. The meeting also allowed Senator Flanagan to gain further insight into the real needs of Long Island's schools so that he can more effectively advocate on their behalf in the coming months.
Most importantly, the event presented Senator Flanagan the opportunity to discuss what school and elected officials can do together if Governor Spitzer's proposed budget shortchanges the school districts of Long Island.
"Governor Spitzer has consistently shown a lack of understanding of Long Island and our region needs to be prepared to make our voice heard. We need to be prepared to collectively let him know that our children and taxpayers deserve better in this year's budget. Any shortfalls will lead to cuts in school programs and unfair increases in property taxes and that is a situation that will not be accepted," stated Senator Flanagan.
This month, beginning with his State of the State address, Governor Spitzer will outline his Executive Budget for the 2008-09 state fiscal year. Last year, Governor Spitzer’s proposed budget slashed the region’s share of new state school aid from approximately 13% of the statewide total to 8%.
Under that original plan, $60 million of Long Island’s traditional share of new state school aid was redirected to other areas of the state. That redistribution would have meant less money for Long Island schools and would have led to school program cuts and massive property tax increases.
While the final New York State budget included a record increase of $220 million in state funding, an amount that more than doubled what was originally proposed by Governor Spitzer, it took the efforts of the Senate Majority's Long Island Delegation to make sure that our region got the funding it deserved.
This weekend's workshop with SCSSA provided those in attendance with the opportunity to discuss the needs of Long Island schools and to have an open dialogue about the future of education in our region. It also allowed those in the room to discuss the upcoming budget and their feelings on the impact that shortfalls would have on Long Island's educational system.
This event built on Senator Flanagan's ongoing efforts to form a collective regional voice that will tell Governor Spitzer that Long Island deserves its fair share of state aid and that the state should build on last year's hard-fought gains.
These efforts include a recent meeting with the Long Island Association (LIA) to publicly announce the LIA's support of the Senate majority's efforts to secure the funding that the region's school districts need. The Long Island Education Coalition (LIEC), the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association and representatives from various school districts and parent-teacher associations also voiced their support at the meeting.
Additionally, Senator Flanagan joined with 34 Long Island school districts in early December in a grassroots campaign to fight for the region's share of education funding. At the rally, the school representatives and Senator Flanagan voiced their disapproval of a November proposal put forth by the New York State Board of Regents' that may serve as the foundation of Governor Spitzer's education plan.
Together with Senator Flanagan, they called on Governor Eliot Spitzer to reject the Regents' plan calls for limiting most Long Island school districts to a 2% state aid increase, eliminating High-Tax Aid and ending Supplemental Excess Cost Aid which provides additional state funding to Long Island school districts with growing special education costs.
Senator Flanagan has also expressed his displeasure with the Regents' spending plan in a letter to the State Education Department and at Division of the Budget hearing about the budget that was held in Hauppauge.
According to Senator Flanagan, any adherence to the Regents' proposal would harm Long Island schools and taxpayers and lead to a budget fight similar to last year. That, along with other information coming from the Spitzer administration, has convinced Senator Flanagan that Long Islanders need to send a clear message to Governor Spitzer.
To provide all Long Islanders with an opportunity to have their voice heard, Senator Flanagan has established an on-line petition on his web site. Residents who wish to join in the call for Long Island's fair share of education aid should click here.
"Governor Spitzer has made it clear that he is looking to fix his budget by cutting the aid for our region. We must make it clear that as a region we are going to work together to make sure that we protect our children and our taxpayers. Last year, the Senate led the fight to get our schools the funding they need after Governor Spitzer aimed his budget cuts at our communities and we stand ready to do the same this year," stated Senator Flanagan.
Governor Spitzer will deliver his State of the State address on Wednesday, January 9th and will unveil his proposal for the state budget on Tuesday, January 22nd.
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