EDITORIAL: Education funding plan is irresponsible

With looming state budget deficit, Regents request for $2 billion spending increase shows lack of concern for taxpayers

Do they teach financial responsibility in the New York state school system?

Whether they do or not, students certainly won’t learn it from state educational leaders.

The governor and state lawmakers are just now starting to grapple with a potential $6.1 billion deficit in the upcoming budget, a gap they’re talking about closing by raising our already-outrageous taxes.

So what does the state Board of Regents propose in the wake of this pending financial crisis — a $2 billion increase in state education spending.

As government policy makers, the Board of Regents not only has a responsibility to provide New York’s children with a sound education, but also a responsibility to the taxpayers who pay for its programs and initiatives.

Sound government administration requires finding the right balance between meeting the citizens’ need for services and providing it at a cost they can afford.

In what way does making such an outlandish and irresponsibly large request for extra funding in these difficult fiscal times demonstrate a commitment to either?

We understand how it works in Albany: Government agencies learn never to ask for just what they need. The strategy is to always to seek far more and expect the governor and Legislature to agree on less.

Last year, the Regents requested a similar spending increase of $2.1 billion, but only received $1 billion. That was probably the target they had in mind all along.  Ask for double what you need, and if you get even half that, you win.

That might be smart negotiating. But it’s irresponsible governing.

How about this instead: Put in the time and effort to present a realistic, reasonable, accurate budget request — one that ensures an adequate level of funding for the areas with the most need, such as school districts in poor cities and for program areas that serve underprivileged and educationally challenged students.

How about presenting lawmakers with an alternative to the screwed-up state aid formula that rewards wealthier districts at the same time it deprives high-needs districts of vital funding? Put that in your budget plan, instead of a 1% increase for every district whether they need it or not.

How about putting off or modifying the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs and pilot programs until the state is on more solid fiscal ground?

How about presenting a list of mandates that could be repealed or modified to help local school districts reduce their expenses and ease the local tax burden?

New York already spends more on education per student than any other state.

We all want the best education for our children. But the money to pay for it doesn’t grow on trees.

If educational leaders want students to learn financial responsibility, they should start by practicing it themselves.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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