Why Elmont residents should come out in large numbers to support public education.
Superintendents Al Harper and Dr. Ferrie are busy informing the community about the upcoming 2012-13 budgets. The Superintendents and designees are visiting local civics and have said they will present the two school district budgets to any group desirous of hearing directly from them. The budget and school board vote is held annually on the third Tuesday of May. This year’s vote is scheduled for May 15, and polls are open from 6 AM to 9 PM. Elmont residents vote at polling stations located at each of the six elementary schools Alden Terrace, Dutch Broadway,
Clara H Carlson, Covert, Gotham Ave, Stewart Manor and the school district office located at 135 Elmont Road.
Elmont Board of Education members Kevin Denehy and Patrick Emeagwali are seeking re-election. Emeagwali is running unopposed for a second, three-year term while Denehy is challenged by Kleev Simon.
This year is the inaugural run of New York State’s two percent tax cap. State Senator Jack Martin said in his most recent newsletter that the two percent tax cap is “more than just a tax cap”. He is right.
The tax cap passed with great political fanfare. Political figures orchestrated a front lawn signing on Long Island to celebrate bi-partisanship and a new Albany can-do attitude. The bill, popular for the obvious had buried in plain sight what many in the New York State Education and constitutional law communities consider a real problem, a sixty percent majority override mandate. Some school districts, in order to pass their budgets must have a sixty percent majority if their proposed budget increase exceeds the two percent cap.
The sixty percent mandate is triggered for the Elmont School District but not for the Sewanhaka School District. Senator Martins in his newsletter calls the state mandate a “60 percent safety valve”. Is this not tantamount to putting a plastic bag over someone’s head thus artificially impeding their ability to breathe; then, demanding an involuntary action while saying “you can breathe if …"? Hyperbolic, sure but you get the point. If you are a voter you already have the ability to curb public school spending. The “safety valve” like gerrymanderng, is an artificial construct intended to thwart the will and independance of a community. New York politicians "solved" a tax problem by undermining the one person one vote majority rule.
But wait, children in Democratic Senate Districts are not entitled to a sound basic education according to senate Republican actions. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans doled out almonst "$10 million in aid to schools in their districts and not a penny to Democratic ones." Retribution on the backs of children? Here is an exchange from the senate floor.
Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) expressed concern that poor districts were left out. “Do you feel remorse?” Diaz asked.
“I feel as much remorse now as you felt when you delivered all your school aid, [and] discretionary funds, to your districts when you were in the majority, that’s how much remorse I feel,” Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) replied.
The tax cap together with the sixty percent mandate will inevitably harm the children and residents of Elmont and the Sewanhaka School Districts. Public school state aid is declining (see chart below). Since the 1989 -90 school year public school state aid to Elmont has declined. The 2011-12 (24.3%) public school aid was almost 25% less than 1989-90 (32.15%), while for the same period state and federal mandates have driven public school budgets higher. It is true and politically popular, though misleading, for Albany politicians to point to “increases” in raw dollars and imply that school aid is increasing.
Public Education is a cornerstone of civil society and now with the voters diminished voting powers, it is more urgent than ever that the community goes out to support schools budgets. Next week’s article will examine why our school administrators and education advocates are loosing sleep over the January 2, 2013 date. Political motives in the federal government can possibly exacerbate this already growing crisis with our kid’s education.
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