Cuomo 'Throwing a Grenade' at NY Public Ed
Opposition is growing in New York, led by the Alliance for Quality Education and community advocates all across the state, to Governor Andrew Cuomo's education policy. What they know first-hand from the devastating impact of the governor’s education agenda in their communities is graphically described by Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun as "throwing a hand grenade at a thorny problem, walking away, and seeing who and what survives." In his blistering critique LeBrun says of Cuomo, "Right from the start of his administration, he's used the wrong tactics, the wrong strategies and the wrong sequences if he had any intention of actually elevating New York's public education system and giving especially stressed urban and rural school districts a much-need boost."
In addition to massive cuts to the state education budget, Cuomo passed a 2 percent cap on school taxes. As LeBrun points out, school districts get their revenue from two sources: state aid and local taxes. Cuomo has "decimated the first and put a ceiling on the second and instilled terror in the hearts of school boards across the state with his bombast." No wonder the state's public schools are in such dire straights. Particularly worrisome is that while 93 percent of district school budgets passed last week, 90 percent of those budgets dipped into reserves (rainy day funds) to make budget ends meet. But those rainy day funds won't last forever, which means there's a far more drastic funding crisis on the horizon.
"Which points to yet another, related issues: a widening gap between state funding to needy school districts and wealthier ones. In a Rutgers University study, New York ranked near the bottom in equitable distribution of education funds. That disparity is the equivalent of unequal opportunity. That is wrong, not to mention contrary to the spirit and language of our state constitution, and is going to come back to bite the Cuomo administration in the tail unless there's a dramatic course correction.
So this spring Cuomo appointed a blue-ribbon commission to come up with a fabulous plan, a plan of action for public education in this state that the governor can use to formulate where we go from here.
Never mind that the constitution I keep referring to puts the responsibility for that sort of plan in the hands of the Board of Regents, not the governor. For some reason, wiser heads long ago felt education ought not to be victimized by the whims of political opportunists. Imagine. Still, the governor can appoint a commission if he wants, and even stack it with a predictable cast of characters, as he has.
But wouldn't it have been both sweet and fitting if he had done so before advocating absolutely for a 2 percent tax cap, before making teachers and the state's public school system perpetual objects of ridicule, before putting school boards in the awful position of having to make choices that can only hurt education in their district? Before inciting the public over supposed shortcomings in our current education system. You know, putting the cart before the hobby horse."
Read LeBrun's full column here!