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Paterson Budget Gets “F” from Education Groups

December 17, 2008

New York, NY — Governor David Paterson says hard economic times call for "shared sacrifice," but education groups say New York school children are being asked to sacrifice too much. Education takes a direct hit of almost 700 million dollars in Paterson's budget, not counting the money New York had committed to spend on education in 2009. Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton calls it the most dramatic cut in committed school funding in the history of the state.

"One of the things that's really outrageous and irresponsible is that the governor is asking school children to contribute 2.5 billion dollars to reducing the deficit, and he's not asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to contribute a penny in terms of higher taxes."

Paterson continues to keep income taxes off the table in his proposed 121 billion dollar budget, and instead proposes more than 100 different fees and other types of tax increases. Easton says his group will ask lawmakers to reject the proposed cuts to education.

Campaign for Fiscal Equity Executive Director Geri Palast says it's not as though schools were in great shape before Paterson's budget proposal. Many districts in economically-troubled parts of New York are playing catch up, and she says this budget means they won't be able to do that.

"We're going to probably have to lay off teachers, we're going to have to cut programs, we're not going to have class size reductions, we're not going to be investing in the middle school reform, or in the English Language Learners programs and the full day pre-K that we were planning on investing in."

Paterson says the state made too many promises and not enough sacrifices. But Palast says some of those promises are backed up by a court order, and lawyers are now examining the budget. She says they may ask a judge to determine if Paterson is living up to New York's legal obligation to adequately fund schools.

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY