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Spitzer's Budget Gets an 'Incomplete' Grade from Educators

January 23, 2008

Albany, NY - Governor Eliot Spitzer may have turned in his new budget thesis on time Tuesday, but teachers weren't pleased to learn that it falls $350 million short of the $1.25 billion he had pledged for the recently-approved academic "Contracts for Excellence." Spitzer suggests potential grant aid might cushion the shortfall, that he blames on a $4.4 billion state deficit.

"Even at a moment of economic -- I don't want to say duress, perhaps economic difficulty -- we are maintaining that priority of Pre-Kindergarten-through-12 spending, because it is essential to our economic future."

Spitzer's $21 billion education budget would also reduce New York City schools' funding by $100 million. Billy Easton with the Alliance for Quality Education says he and other educators will ask the Legislature to help New York's educationally challenged kids, by "finding" the missing $350 million that had been earmarked for learning.

"If the Legislature does not restore the money that's not in this proposed budget, there'll be less money to reduce class sizes, less money to create after-school programs, less money for extra tutoring. It's going to make a huge difference for kids."

Frank Mauro with the Fiscal Policy Institute says the state should increase, rather than cut back, education funding in order to reduce property taxes in local school districts. Mauro adds the budget even appears to "go against the grain" of a national economic recovery.

"At a time when the economy is slowing down, retrenchment of this type isn't necessarily the best tradeoff for the economy. While Washington is trying to pump more money into the economy, the states, by taking actions like this, are going in the other direction."

Spitzer's proposed budget for 2008 totals $124 billion. State lawmakers are scheduled to debate and approve a final figure by April.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY