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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Mon, Nov 9, 2009

$686 Million in School Cuts on Top of Broken Promise

Parents and Community Members Deliver Broken Pencils to Governor Paterson and Legislators, Present Budget Saving Alternatives

(Albany) On the day before November 10th's special session, parents, community members, and major education organizations from across the state urged legislators to oppose Governor Paterson’s proposed $686 million mid-year cut to New York schools. The cuts come on top of the state’s broken promise to schoolchildren this year after failing to deliver any of the $1.5 billion in additional funding to schools, as part of the settlement of the CFE court decision. The groups released a cost savings white paper offering several options for addressing the state’s budget shortfall. The organizations praised the State Senate for proposing a Deficit Reduction Plan that includes no mid-year school aid cuts and called for the Assembly to take similar action. Several of the organizations also warned that any proposed state budget spending cap threatened the court-ordered Campaign for Fiscal Equity school funding settlement and that a spending cap should not be considered as part of addressing mid-year changes to the budget because such a cap would have no impact on the current year’s budget.

The group broke pencils in unison to symbolize the broken promise, and then delivered the broken pencils to Governor Paterson and legislators. The pencils – as well as a ten-foot long pencil for Governor Paterson – were inscribed with the slogan, “No more broken promises!”

"Earlier this year the Governor and the legislature failed to keep the promise to deliver the funding our courts ordered to ensure every child's constitutional right to a quality
education. The legislature is now considering a proposal for $686 million in school cuts
on top of the broken promise that would further endanger our children’s opportunity to learn," said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. "The Senate has proposed a responsible Deficit Reduction Plan that rejects school aid cuts--hopefully the Assembly will do the same. However, any proposal for a state spending cap is misdirected and would hurt our schools while doing nothing to address the mid-year budget gap."

“Taking more than a billion dollars out of schools, colleges and vital health programs would create chaos and suffering,” said New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “It would put an unnecessary burden on local property taxpayers and hamper New York’s economic recovery by forcing the elimination of jobs — jobs vital to the economies of many local communities.”

“The Governor’s cuts come at a time when we now have a much higher Regents standard to graduate from high school. How can the State raise expectations, as they should, and then take away resources to help students meet the increasingly demanding requirements?” asked Jose Gonzalez, a parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice and father of two boys from the Bronx.

"Educating our children in good schools that prepare them for career, college, and active civic participation is the most powerful weapon to reenergize our economy and combat poverty. It is also a requirement in the New York State Constitution. The Governor and the legislature already froze school aid that prioritizes the neediest schools and students at last year’s levels for two years. Now the Governor wants $686 million more in mid-year cuts to schools that will not only add to teacher lay-offs, program reductions and larger classes already in place, but will disrupt the school year and compound the negative impact on the kids and the classrooms. The Governor is turning back the clock on the resolution of a constitutional judgment in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case that New York’s neediest students are getting shortchanged. Breaking this promise is short-sighted and must be rejected,” said Geri D. Palast, Executive Director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

“School district leaders worked hard this year to protect services for schoolchildren while minimizing local tax increases. Despite the weakest state aid in six years, we had the lowest average school tax increase in seven years,” said Robert Lowry, Deputy Director, New York State Council of School Superintendents. “The proposed mid-year state aid cuts would force those leaders to undo the work they did last spring to develop school budgets that won approval record approval by voters – over 97 percent. They are also likely to leave school leaders and their communities facing even worse budget choices next spring.”

"Mid-year school cuts break the promise New York State made that every child will have an opportunity to learn and succeed. Every cut and delay in funding dashes our kids' hopes and opportunities." Karen Scharff, Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York.

“The Buffalo City School District stands to lose $10.5 million if the legislature does not stop these cuts. Students across the state should be in the classroom solving far less burdensome math problems instead of being forced to solve the state’s budget problems,” said Irene Hawkesworth, a Buffalo parent.

AQE, CANY, CFE and NYSUT issued a set of cost saving recommendations that included:

  • Acceptance of $1.225 billion in cuts proposed by the Governor excluding school aid and other local assistance and state operations cuts;

  • Refinancing debt to take advantage of lower interest rates, the Senate Majority estimates that $500 million could be saved just from refinancing tobacco settlement bonds;

  • Utilizing the rainy day funds to provide up to $1.2 billion for closing the budget gap, such action has been taken numerous times by previous governors without a negative impact on the state;

  • Prescription drugs bulk purchasing would save at least $100 million and possibly significantly more, self-insurance for prescriptions drugs is estimated to save between 3% and 7%;

  • Eliminating the Empire Zone program will provide the state with approximately $600 million;

  • Collecting owed taxes on tobacco product will bring back to the state a few hundred million;

  • Reducing by half the use of pricey consultants will yield $730 million over the next three years;

  • Energy conservation measures in schools could save upwards of $200 million, conservation in state agencies would produce significant additional savings.

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >