New York state must stop letting electorate decide school budgets
Yahoo! Fewer than 30 school budgets failed at the polls May 21. We have good budgets. We have schools supported by the people of our communities. Our people care.
Sorry, but this is just not true. The school budget vote process in New York state is counterproductive at best and should be eliminated immediately.
School administrators and boards of education are crafting budgets they hope will pass muster with voters while remaining within the state tax cap and in the wake of enormous funding cuts wielded by the Cuomo administration. The budgets may be passing, but the school programs, and ultimately the students — our children — will continue to experience the erosion of academic and extracurricular programs. The fact is, we had better schools in New York state 10 years ago than we have today, in spite of all of the rhetoric about school improvement.
A quick review of the results in the Capital Region’s three major cities will support the need to revamp the system of funding schools. Albany, Schenectady and Troy all appeared to pass their budgets by resounding margins [but] nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the vote results indicate that pretty much no one is interested in what is happening in the community’s schools. In Albany, only 3.5 percent of registered voters went to the polls. In Schenectady and Troy the numbers were 3 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively! Simply put, fewer than 2 percent of the voters in these communities actually “passed” budgets.
The annual budget vote is a product of the antiquated, regressive and most likely unconstitutional method New York state and other states fund at least part of their public schools — through property taxes.
I call upon the state Legislature to eliminate the vote on school budgets immediately and to take immediate steps to move school funding from property taxes to some other form of taxation (there are many fairer scenarios). I am also asking citizens and teachers to join me by contacting their representatives to demand this change.
Citizens of the United States are not allowed to directly vote on the national budget. Similarly, no popular vote is allowed on state, city, village, county or town budgets. The only budget that faces public scrutiny and an annual ballot in which residents are essentially voting to raise their property taxes is the school budget. Ironically, this is the only budget that guarantees every dollar spent will remain in the community. (Who knows where our federal and state tax dollars end up?)
Obviously the school budget vote is producing results that are negative at best, and in many cases could put the safety and potentially the lives of our children and teachers at risk.
Let’s build school budgets that actually make sense and provide the dollars and cents to support them.
The writer is a retired teacher and administrator.
Amsterdam’s Bacon school a physical wreck
I recently made a visit to the Clara S. Bacon School in Amsterdam and, boy, was it an eye-opener.
The Greater Amsterdam School District has labeled this school as an alternative school for students of all ages with “behavioral problems,” as determined by the school superintendent.
I wonder how many GASD taxpayers have been in or near this school recently to see where their money is not going. This school is a disgrace: both the interior and exterior are ill-kept. There is a stairway leading to the entrance that is cracked and broken, with a wooden temporary wall that provides a great hiding place for just about anything; broken windows are covered with wood. The interior is dark and dingy. You do not teach children respect or give them any self-worth when they are dumped in a building like what I have seen.
I understand that some of these students have had multiple problems in school and they need extra attention and help, so why isn’t it handled in a better way?
It always seems there is a fight for more money for sports and extracurricular activities, and in turn the neediest get left behind. Let us not tag these problem children as “bad,” [and] instead focus on getting them the help they need in a proper environment.
Disagreeing is OK, but knock off name-calling
Re Dave Edwards’ May 23 letter: As is par for the course, conservative, right-wing haters of our president have to resort to name-calling i.e., “Kool-Aid drinking,” “boob,” ”liberal hack,” “liars,” and “Jay the Carney.” Instead of investigating the actual facts, they continue to spew innuendo to sway people into believing their way of thinking.
It has been proven [that] by the time we knew about the [Benghazi] attack, our troops could not have made it in time to save those people who gave their lives for our country. Many mistakes have been made, by both parties, regarding security at our outposts.
Instead of name-calling and hating of our president, how about some bipartisan agreements on many things facing our nation? Move on from the bullying, and immature name-calling; go out and try to help your fellow Americans, instead of hiding behind your fence. Get to know your neighbor and respect his or her right to believe the way they do, the right and mature way!
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