Cuomo policies are starving schools of the funds they need
It appears Gov. Cuomo has started his campaign for re-election. His State of the State address itemized new programs as well as highlighting the successes of his first three years [Jan. 8 Gazette]. His current list of accomplishments is impressive. He has worked tirelessly to transform our state and show that government can confront — and solve — New York’s toughest problems.
One of his programs established a property tax cap to hold the line on skyrocketing local property bills. This compounded the problems for local schools because state aid already had been decreased from $26.4 billion in 2011 to $22.6 billion in 2013. This was done in order to close the state’s own budget gap. This Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) is the term used when the state takes away money promised to schools in order to close its own budget gap. The GEA was initiated by the Paterson administration, but so far Cuomo has done nothing to restore those school funding decreases.
When Gov. Cuomo says he has increased aid, he is simply referring to the 3 percent he raised the aid to $23.3 billion in his 2014 budget, but it is still considerably lower than the state aid in 2011. According to the governor’s budget projection, school aid doesn’t reach the 2011 level again until 2017. Of course, school expenses increase every year.
The reduced level of state funding in conjunction with the tax cap has resulted in reduction in public school programs and the elimination of many teaching positions. Since Cuomo’s his election in 2010, thousands of teachers and other educators have lost their jobs. In his first year, 2011, over 7,000 teachers were laid off. That trend has continued through to the current proposed budget for 2014.
The tax cap is strangling the ability of local school districts to compensate for cuts in state aid. The Alliance for Quality Education reports, “Statewide the cuts forced school districts to increase class size, to reduce summer school, to reduce art and music classes, and to reduce honors and advanced placement classes.” School programs may be so badly reduced that our children’s education will be severely limited and some schools will be bankrupt.
In 2014 additional cuts in school programs are nearly certain. As the schools start the budget plans for next year, there are already announcements of budget shortfalls. Schenectady School Superintendent Laurence Spring announced that his school is facing a $10 million gap that will cause further cuts in programs.
Cuomo plans to use future funds to make our schools more high-tech, which is likely needed in the 21st century. But his present level of spending is not going to increase the low graduation rate of our inner-city schools or preserve the high quality education in our suburban schools. An increase in 2014 state aid from the proposed $23.3 billion to at least the 2011 level of $26 billion, or more, is desperately needed.
Unless action is taken, this issue may become the most important of Cuomo’s legacy — that he has harmed New York’s public education.
Casinos will take money, and won’t give it back
As a native Saratogian, I have to agree with those that do not want expanded gaming in the city of Saratoga Springs.
My family was involved in slot machines way back when slots were in most hotels, candy stores, private clubs [and] back rooms of many places.
I remember as a young boy a few housewives came into my brothers’ shop and cried. They said their husbands lost most of their paychecks and they did not have money for food.
My brother asked them how much did he [husband] lose; they would say $70, $80 or $90. My brother gave that amount back to them and said, “I will do this one time only, please tell your husband not to play the slots any more.”
This gives you a message: Casinos are like any other business, they are set to make money — not lose. Hopefully, common sense will take over and Saratogians will do the right thing.
Bridge crews have done the job in all weather
I would like to commend the crew working of the Western Gateway Bridge.
They started in the fall of 2012, worked through the cold and snow of the winter of 2012-13. They worked through the heat of the summer and again through the fall of 2013. Now they are having to deal with a colder than usual winter as well as more snow.
These men, and a few women, are always moving. Rarely will you see them just standing around. If they are, I’m guessing they are waiting for one part of the job to finish so they can jump in and do their part.
It looks like they are almost finished, and I would like to say thank you to them for all of their hard work under conditions that most people would not want to work with.
True acts of giving are becoming rare
Sometimes the act of giving is the best gift at Christmas time (any other time also). The actual gift is irrelevant, most of the time.
Christmas Eve 2013, my wife and I walked into a Publix’s Supermarket in Florida. To our surprise, there were two men playing Christmas music, one an employee and the other a retired employee. It is something nice they do.
In the great Capital Region, all we get are “beggars” at kettles with a hand out. Now, I understand the need to feed the hungry, but a gesture of giving without asking for anything in return would be in the true nature of Christmas. Feed the soul! As a culture, we have lost the capacity to give without expecting a return — that return being a pat on the back, a tax writeoff or a false sense of personal generosity.
I am not naive, I understand customers of Publix’s who experience the “generosity” will continue to shop there. Knowing the people who work at Publix’s and their values, I have to believe it was a true act of giving, not a calculation. Either way, it was real nice and left us with a good feeling.
The big-box gifts are nice, I guess, but it is what comes from the heart that enriches us beyond the material.
Christie’s bridge scandal was, above all, stupid
Re Jan. 10 editorial, “A gem of a jam for Christie”: There is no dearth of media coverage of the egregious New Jersey bridge scandal still unfolding. Much of the reporting and commentary continues to be focused upon ethical lapses and possible transgressions of law and their political implications. Largely overlooked by the media has been the utter stupidity of it all, since by all accounts Gov. Chris Christie was a shoo-in for re-election.
Such stupidity in high places in American politics and governance is not without precedent: Recall, for example, the Watergate scandal, when by all accounts President Richard Nixon was a shoo-in for reelection. And the sex scandal surrounding President Bill Clinton, whose policy successes and popularity ratings were impressive up to the time the scandal broke.
Feeling the heat of congressional impeachment proceedings, a disgraced Nixon felt compelled to resign. The same constitutional process nearly drove Clinton from office.
One cannot help but wonder about Christie’s fate.
The writer is a retired political science professor.
One house that wasn’t made safer by guns
I read the Jan. 8 article, [“Shouting match, then sentence”] about the sentencing of a women who killed a man with an assault rifle.
I have questions:
1) Why was there a weapon of this type in the home?
2) Had the police been to the home previously for domestic disturbances?
3) If so, did they ask about weapons being present at that location?
4) Can any sane person say, in all seriousness, that the dead man would have had a much better chance of not being a murder victim if no guns were at that home?
Mark E. Valberg
The Gazette wants your opinions on public issues.
There is no strict word limit, though letters under 200 words are preferred.
All letters are subject to editing for length, style and fairness, and we will run no more than one letter per month from the same writer.
Please include your signature, address and day phone for verification.
For information on how to send, see bottom of this page.