Calling 2007 "a landmark year for education in New York," State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) today applauded Governor Eliot Spitzer's bold vision for transforming a statewide public education system that has too often failed to deliver success in the classroom.
Under the proposed school investment program, school aid would be increased by $1.4 billion in 2007-2008, bringing total state funding to $19.2 billion in the new school year. When the four-year educational program is fully phased in by 2010-2011, overall state school funding would grow by $7 billion, an increase of 40 percent.
"With his far-reaching proposal, Governor Spitzer has delivered intelligent solutions, not another round of empty promises," Senator Hassell-Thompson said. "I commend the Governor's efforts to refocus the educational debate from battles over adequate funding to one of greater accountability and performance in the schools. The time has come to make choices that promise results."
As part of his Executive Budget, released earlier this week, Governor Spitzer detailed a Four-Year Educational Investment Plan. The plan establishes a new Foundation Aid formula to provide additional aid to school districts, targeting those most in need and allocating aid in a transparent, equitable and predictable manner.
"The new formula distributes funds based on student need, not politics," Senator Hassell-Thompson said, who adds that previous funding methodologies were rife with inequities. "Under this plan, impoverished districts will be able to better serve those children who need help the most."
The Governor's proposal goes a long way in addressing the school funding needs highlighted by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker noted. It also supports educational choice by providing for an increase in the charter school cap from 100 to 250 and by adding special funds for public school districts impacted by a large number of charter schools. In addition, families of private and parochial school children would, depending on income, receive up to a $1,000 tax deduction per child that could be used against tuition.
"I'm particularly excited about the Governor's commitment to providing universal access to high-quality Pre-Kindergarten programs," Senator Hassell-Thompson said. "We all know that the greater a student's exposure to productive and enriching experiences, especially in the younger years, the greater his or her chances for success."
Senator Hassell-Thompson also said she agrees with Governor Spitzer's call for greater school accountability. Districts will be asked to identify how money will be allocated, school by school, showing how funds will be used to produce measurable results, such as smaller class size and teacher quality initiatives.
"While greater accountability for school spending is certainly long overdue," she added, "I intend to fully study the details of the plan to ensure that our hardworking teachers, principals and superintendents will be judged fairly."
"Year after year, New York parents have looked to Albany to provide a clear path to educational excellence," Senator Hassell-Thompson concluded. "Under the Governor's leadership, we finally have a plan to give all the children of our State the tools they need to succeed in life."