Those people throughout New York who plan on voting on their local school district budget on May 15th (and everyone who is eligible to vote should do so) should read this editorial that recently appeared in the Albany Times Union and reflect on its perspective.
How will your community reflect its value of education?
Editorial: The hidden cost in school budgets
School budgets suggest that poorer districts may be losing ground faster than richer ones.
The state needs to make sure it helps most where the need is greatest.
School district budget votes are more than a month away, but we're already getting an inkling of winners and losers. Or perhaps the right phrase might be the haves and have nots.
The budgets proposed in recent weeks suggest that many (if not most) districts are grappling with hard decisions as they try to live within the state's new tax levy cap. Those decisions seem to get a whole lot harder as the districts get needier.
What you might see, in the end, is fresh affirmation of a long-standing reality of public education in New York, and probably most of America — that all public schools are not created equal. If early trends hold, we may find that the super majorities of voters needed to overcome tax caps are less likely in urban and poor rural districts than in more affluent suburbs — widening the education gap even more.
Consider this tale of two districts in Albany County.
In the Albany City School District, the board of education proposes a $207.7 million budget with a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent — less than the 2 percent allowed under the cap. Taxpayers are likely to be pleased.
But to achieve that conservative figure, the school system will lose nearly 40 more jobs, on top of the 250 it has cut over the last three years. The newly targeted jobs include two assistant superintendents, an after-school coordinator, an assistant elementary principal, two social workers, five teachers and 12 special education support staff.
The Bethlehem Central School District is making choices, too. Its $88.2 million budget would eliminate 58 jobs, including 22 teachers, 34 support staff and the equivalent of two administrative posts. To save money, it plans to implement such measures as creating centralized pick-up bus stops for students, eliminating the gymnastics program, reducing clubs, and trimming equipment purchases and BOCES services.
The suburban district is counting on not having to cut so deeply that it would have to eliminate athletics, Chinese language instruction and a special ed teacher. Why? It's betting that Bethlehem voters will go along with a 3.99 percent tax levy increase. That hike would exceed the tax levy cap and require approval of 60 percent of voters. Albany's increase of less than half that is what the school board apparently figures a simple majority of city voters will support.
If this assumption is borne out in budget votes here and elsewhere, the disparities between rich districts and poor ones are likely to grow — that is, unless the state does more to help less affluent districts, particularly.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lawmakers, the Regents and the State Education Department all need to watch this year's budgets, not just to see if they pass, not just to see how many live within the cap and how many don't, but to learn if these budgets fulfill the state's mandate to provide a sound, basic education for all the children of this state.
That's the real measure. Because we all lose if holding down taxes means holding back our children.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Editorial-The-hidden-cost-in-school-budgets-3469771.php#ixzz1reiVcbHf