Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today joined with 34 Long Island school districts in a grassroots campaign to fight for the region's fair share of education funding.
The rally provided all in attendance a chance to voice their disapproval of the New York State Board of Regents' recent proposal and to demand that Long Island schools be sufficiently funded in the upcoming budget negotiations.
The participating school districts represent a total of 195,000 students and approximately 466,000 taxpaying households across Long Island. Along with Senator Flanagan, they called on Governor Eliot Spitzer to reject the Regents' proposal and to present a budget that properly funds Long Island schools.
"The needs of our schools and our children must be met in the upcoming budget and today's rally should send the message that Long Island is united in our call for our fair share. From parents to school administrators to elected officials, we all know that this is a fight that must be won for the children and the taxpayers of our region."
While the Regents' plan would increase school aid throughout the state by almost 10 percent, a majority of the increase would be directed to schools outside of Long Island.
The proposal also contains a renewed call to eliminate the High Tax aid formula, which delivered millions of dollars to areas like Long Island. This formula recognizes the strong educational commitment of residents who pay higher school taxes by providing their school districts with additional funding to ease the burden faced by property taxpayers.
Senator Flanagan has been outspoken in his belief that Long Island schools are being shortchanged in the Regents' proposal and his fear that this proposal is a sign of things to come as part of Governor Eliot Spitzer's upcoming budget proposal.
In November, Senator Flanagan joined with his colleagues in the Long Island Senate Delegation to denounce the Regents' spending plan. In a letter to State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills and Chancellor Robert M. Bennett, the Delegation expressed their collective disappointment with the plan.
Senator Flanagan also made a personal call for Long Island's fair share at a recent Division of the Budget hearing held in Hauppauge. At the hearing, he called for a rejection of the Regents' proposal and stressed the need for this year's proposal to reflect the true needs of the Long Island residents.
While the final enacted budget included a record increase of $220 million in state funding, an amount that more than doubled the amount originally proposed by Governor Spitzer, it took the efforts of the Senate to make sure that Long Island got the funding it deserved.
He called for Governor Spitzer's upcoming proposal to reflect the Senate's funding efforts that helped schools avoid severe program cuts and protected property taxpayers from massive increases.
While the Senate's efforts were applauded at the rally, the assembled clearly voiced their agreement that losing those hard-fought gains would be highly damaging to the schools and to the communities of Long Island.
"Governor Spitzer has shown a lack of understanding of Long Island and we must work together to make sure he understands the fiscal reality of our communities. The issue is clear - less state aid equals more property taxes and that is unfair to Long Islanders," added Senator Flanagan. "I join with the parents, educators and children of Long Island in saying we deserve our fair share."
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.
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