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Upstaters Demand Fair Education Share

March 20, 2008

Albany, NY - Governor Paterson and the New York Legislature are working to restore $350 million dollars in school funds cut by former Governor Spitzer, but it's become a battle over who needs more help -- upstate students with high needs, or downstate and Long Island residents with high taxes?

The Democratic-controlled Assembly is proposing that school funds be allocated through an academic-based "foundation formula," while the Republican-controlled Senate is proposing special funds for "high-tax aid" in wealthier downstate districts. As the debate heats up, Billy Easton with the Alliance for Quality Education thinks not all the Senators are adequately representing their constituents.

"The state Senate budget bill shortchanges school districts in upstate New York to pad funding for wealthy downstate suburban districts. Senators in upstate New York are supposed to represent upstate New York, and they should be working on bringing money home to their districts."

Last year, 70 percent of the tax aid went to Long Island, with a small portion going to underachieving school districts. The Assembly would restore $300 million for basic school funding, while the Senate plan proposes less than one-sixth of that, $47 million dollars, with $140 million going for "high tax aid."

Senate negotiators were unavailable for comment, but Easton says equitable funding would make a big difference for upstate students.

"Full funding invested in best practices makes the difference between more kids graduating, or less kids graduating. It's the difference between more kids being ready to go to college, or less kids being ready to go to college. This makes all the difference in the world to individual students."

The Alliance for Quality Education is holding public forums about school funding issues today in Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

Robert Knight/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NY