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Improving NY Schools ... Will Politics Override Need?

November 30, 2007

Albany, NY - New York is holding statewide hearings on next year's executive budget, and education advocates are reminding Governor Eliot Spitzer and the State Legislature that they have a promise to fulfill: to raise K-12 academic standards in a way that is fair to all schools and students. Danielle Ponder is a Rochester resident who testified in support of the four-year academic budget proposed by the Governor.

"Last year's school aid increase was really a downpayment for the education funding that we fought for and were promised. We really want the legislators to stay to this four-year financial commitment, and deliver the funds for 2008."

The state increased aid to local school districts by nearly $2 billion in 2007, with a promise of $5 billion more by 2010. Most of that money is allocated by school need, but some activists are concerned that an additional $120 million is being allocated geographically, and is therefore subject to political, rather than needs-based, disbursement. The funding improvements are part of the state's "Contracts for Excellence," which seek to ensure high academic standards in the state's 55 underachieving districts.

Amparo Sadler, a supporter of the Alliance for Quality Education, is testifying today in Long Island, demanding academic accountability and fiscal equity in the allocation of state funds. She says some of the wealthier districts enjoy bigger budgets because of their tax base, while poorer schools have to scramble.

"All the districts are all saying, 'We need money, we need money, we need money.' I think that Governor Spitzer should be looking at the poorer districts that don't have everything the other districts have."

Sadler and others are urging legislators to abandon political payouts in favor of the state's reformed school aid formula that prioritizes funding based upon student need. Results of the statewide hearings will be presented to Governor Spitzer in preparation for the budget he'll present to the legislature in January.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY