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Education Is a Taxing Dilemma for Governor Spitzer

January 10, 2008

Albany, NY - Governor Eliot Spitzer promised to keep his commitment to fund improvements in New York's school system during Wednesday's State of the State address. A key component of the plan is the recently approved "Contracts for Excellence," which are designed to enhance student performance with proven teaching methods and academic monitoring in 55 of the state's lowest-achieving school districts.

"We made the largest education investment in New York history. For our kindergarten to twelfth grade students, our plan for education involves a simple equation: investment plus accountability equals excellence."

Parents and educators have lobbied recently for Spitzer to keep his pledge to fund the Excellence Contracts with five billion dollars over the next four years. Billy Easton with the Alliance for Quality Education says it looks like Spitzer will stay the course.

"The Governor reasserted his commitment to full funding for the schools. So, it's pretty clear that we would expect $1.2 billion more to raise the quality of education in high needs and all schools across the state."

A key issue for education funding is the balance between statewide allocations and local revenues, where education taxes average two-thirds of all property taxes. To ease the education burden on homeowners, the Governor proposed a commission to find ways of controlling property taxes, including a possible ceiling on what school districts can levy. Geri Palast with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is concerned that a tax cap could worsen the education gap.

"The concern is that by upping state aid, it gives local areas an excuse for not putting in their share. So, we are very concerned about any rush to make a judgment about property taxes."

The details of Governor Spitzer's education funding plan will be revealed at the end of the month, during his budget address.

Robert Knight/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY