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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Wed, Nov 26, 2008

Paterson Drops Midyear School Aid Cuts

Tom Precious, The Buffalo News

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson Tuesday formally withdrew his proposal to cut more than $800 million to schools during the middle of their fiscal year.

But Paterson, in a letter to school board presidents and superintendents around the state, sent out an ominous warning: Prepare for even deeper cuts next year as a result of the State Legislature’s inaction last week during an emergency session the governor had called to deal with the current crisis.

Continuing what has become weekly gloom-and-doom assessments of the state’s finances, Paterson told the school officials he wanted to give them time to prepare for less state aid next year than has already been projected.

“Fiscal management is all about making hard, painful decisions, and the rejection of a midyear school aid reduction by the Legislature means that deeper declines in funding for school districts will now be necessary in 2009-10,” Paterson wrote.

With state aid to schools making up one-third of the state’s general fund, Paterson said it will be impossible to take education cuts off the table. He will unveil his specific budget plans for the overall budget on Dec. 16 — more than a month early — to give the different stakeholders time to get ready for the cuts.

“I acknowledge that your costs are rising, but I believe all levels of government must reduce spending,” Paterson wrote the school officials. He asked them for help in finding ways to restructure how the education system is funded to help cut costs.

School aid funding is set to rise 8.8 percent, or $1.9 billion, next year. Paterson said that is a number “we simply cannot afford.”

The state is facing a $1.5 billion deficit this year and $12.5 billion next year. Paterson had asked lawmakers last week to enact $2 billion in savings, cuts and revenue hikes, but the two houses left Albany with no bills passed.

Two groups involved several years ago in a successful landmark lawsuit against the state to secure more funding for public schools blasted Paterson’s warning letter for not backing other steps, such as raising taxes on wealthy residents.

“The lack of imagination on the governor’s part in proclaiming the need for substantial cuts over sensible revenue ideas is a sad day for New York’s children,” said Geri Palast, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which, along with the Alliance for Quality Education, said Paterson’s plan undermines the court order following a 15-year legal fight to raise school funding in the state.


Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >