Elmont votes to affirm Public Education but Albany Demockery smuthers the will of the voting community.

Last Friday (May 11) I received a call from an Elmont Memorial High School parent asking me to support the school by purchasing plants sold by the PTSA.  I did but with public education funding targeted for cuts by “friendly” Albany Republicans can Elmont parents make up the revenue short falls with bake sales and art auctions?

So, how many PTSA Bake Sales will make up the short fall?  How many Martins 3-on-3 Basketballs Tournaments photos will fill the funding gap?  How many Programs like District Wide Music Festival, Jazz Masters, Model UN and Operation Success are in danger?  Will the Elmont Soccer Club, GYO, Elmont Cardinals have to pay for the use of fields and classrooms?

Then there is sequestration - “Because Congress failed to identify the $1.2 trillion in budgetary savings” mandatory automatic cuts to the federal budget will take effect on January 2, 2013.  According to a National PTA memo “…sequestration would devastate state and local budgets, halting delivery of vital educational services to our most in-need students.

In Elmont almost 57% (1226 of 2163) of the voting community affirmed their deep and sacrificial commitment to funding public education yet, the budget failed.  Parents, school administrators and true public school advocates are scratching their heads this morning.  And it is not over, sequestration in on the horizon and that could lead to further mid-year cuts.

Sequestration, austerity dogma and deliberate miss-education by Republicans like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnel, Dean Skelos, Jack Martins and Ed Ra coupled with weak Albany Democrats are creating conditions for a perfect storm in public education.

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Public policy driven by local and national tea-party conservatives, some masquerading in progressive digs, is set to exacerbate the education funding gap between minority schools districts, generally less wealthy, and more affluent districts.  The tax cap policy even defies the “rising tide lifts all boats” analogy.

Public schools are easy targets for the tax fatigued public and pandering politicians.  Complains that teachers and administrators make too much money, and politicians eager to show off their conservative credentials attack the profession with bumper sticker like solutions.  But ask yourself this – if your child graduates college as a teacher or school administrator, how will the outrageous loans they have amassed be repaid?

One real solution is to reevaluate higher education funding.  If we value education then let’s begin a national effort to make higher education free or very low cost.  Require graduates reinvest in their communities for some defined period after which education loans are forgiven and they are free get drunk on the “pursuit of happiness” – assuming of course they did not find it in public service.

What’s not a solution? The Republican national budget (Paul Ryan’s Budget) which includes revenue assumption based on doubling student loan interest rates and severe cuts to public education funding. 

What’s not a solution? Albany Republican politicians like Martins, Skelos and the new "Amigos" (remmeber these “Amigos”), a splinter group of Democrats called “The Independent Democratic Conference” agreeing to state aid cuts as the Republicans use gimmickry to find $10 million for Republican school districts.

What’s not a solution?  Passing bi-partisan bills that “relieve” school districts of inconsequential mandates and ignoring dramatic cost savings to public education if they address the Tri-Borough Amendment.

Republican ideolgy in Washington and Albany focus instead on tampering with individual voting rights and community voting strength.  The results of Elmont’s School budget vote affirms with sharp relief the truth about the Republican attack on poor and working class families in New York State and in the nation.  They are not fixing tax problems.  They are carpet bombing the working class by smothering what’s left of American social mobility (a concept that is already on life support).  Public education, public transportation, public safety (police services), sewer service, water services and democracy itself are at risk from the privatization, tax to fees Republican scams.

“Because of the draconian statute passed by the state legislature which essentially targets public education in the state of New York” said Column Nugent, attorney for the Elmont School District, the yes vote exceeded 55 percent but did not reach the mandate of 60 percent required for passage of the modest budget increase, an increase driven almost entirely by mandated expenses.

So, how many PTSA Bake Sales will make up the short fall?  How many Martins 3-on-3 Basketballs Tournament photos will fill the funding gap?  How many Programs like District Wide Music Festival, Jazz Masters, Model UN and Operation Success are in danger?  Will the Elmont Soccer Club, GYO, Elmont Cardinals have to pay for the use of fields and classrooms?  Will you be fooled by the large check photo and local apologists?

There are three options for the school district and one option for the community left:

  • The district can resubmit the budget as is for revote at a cost to tax payers of approximately $37, 000;
  • The district can submit a revised budget for revote at a cost to tax payers of approximately $37, 000; or
  • The district can accept last night’s outcome. 

All three have costs and some have both cost and great risk.  Failure has dire consequences for next year’s budget and defines the problem created by the state – in some minority school districts and almost all high needs school districts the business of educating children is conducted on very slim margins, not by choice but out of necessity.  The tax cap law targets poor and minority districts in that every failed budget pushes these districts faster and further behind.

Finally, the community can scratch and patch together (across the gerrymandered lines) coalitions to remove the local and national politicians that turn democracy into demockery.

With the toxic odor of privatization in the air what’s next?  Sell public schools to the Koch Brothers or Chase Bank then Mitch McConnel, Paul Ryan, Jack Martins, Dean Skelos and Democratic Amigos in Albany will claim reductions in taxes.  Oh, but the fees.