It is with sincere gratitude that I recognize the tireless efforts of Fresh Air Fund volunteers in Nassau County as the country celebrates National Volunteer Week. Their commitment to helping New York City children is exemplary for all community members and truly embodies the spirit of the 2011 National Volunteer Week theme, “Celebrating People in Action.”
On Thursday, April 14, I attended a “Safe Kids, Safe Streets” Anti-Drug Forum held at the Hicksville William P. Bennett Community Center. The forum was hosted and organized by New York State Assemblyman Michael Montesano. The program featured expert panelists from the Nassau County Police, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Nassau County Department of Mental Health and the New York State Drug Treatment Court.
For me it is somewhat axiomatic that totalitarian societies like the Soviet Union collapse because of the freedoms they deny people whilst democracies like the United States collapse because of the freedoms they permit people. The latter part of the equation might seem odd until we consider the true nature of freedom. Freedom of religion doesn’t make people more holy, freedom of speech and press doesn’t make people more knowledgeable, and freedom to elect their leaders doesn’t make people better governed. Holiness, knowledge, and wise and just governance are moral, intellectual, and spiritual elements, not political, legal, or constitutional ones. This can be observed, writ small, in an unlikely local incident: the Gilgo Beach murders.
Editor’s Note: The writer of the following letter will be giving a PowerPoint presentation regarding funding and State Aid of Public Schools in NYS with a focus on the impact on Hicksville at the April 14 Hicksville Garden Civic meeting. See website http://www.hgcivic.org/meetings.html.
Can we afford to live on Long Island and still give our children a quality education? My answer is a resounding “yes.” However I don’t think that Governor Cuomo has yet touched on the solution. The true problem resides in the method of funding public education in New York State. Nationwide, public schools get 56 percent of their funding from State and federal sources; New York State is close to the national average providing 50 percent state/federal funding. Yet Hicksville, my school district, a relatively modest working class neighborhood with 5,400 students costing $20,700 per student, gets only 15 percent funding from state and federal sources. This is a common problem for Long Island communities. Yet a similar upstate city like Elmira, with 6,850 students and a cost per student of $17,100, gets 70 percent funding from state sources. If Hicksville School District received the same level of funding as Elmira, 70 percent, a typical house in Hicksville which currently pays $4,000 in annual school tax would only pay $1,450!
The State Legislature, working with Gov. Cuomo, passed a budget that does not include wine in big box stores. However, the big box stores already have a bill they plan to introduce to try to push this through.
This is a job killer, a small business killer, and worst, will increase underage drinking and driving accidents and fatalities in our state.
If you would like to help stop this bad idea, please go to www.LastMainStreet Store.com today. Click on “Take Action” then “Write a Letter” and follow the instructions to send Governor Cuomo and your legislators the pre-formatted thank you for keeping this bad idea out of the budget. It only takes a minute.
If you have friends and family that could do the same that would be very helpful and much appreciated.
Young’s Fine Wines & Spirits
The time has come for New Yorkers to take back their vote. The League of Women Voters of Nassau County believes this can come about only if legislators support an independent, nonpartisan commission for redrawing Assembly and Senate districts in response to the 2010 census. To achieve this end, the LWV has joined ReShape NY, a broad coalition of 30 advocacy, business, union, and civil groups calling on the Governor and state legislature to create an independent redistricting commission that draws district lines using fair and defined criteria while engaging the public in the process. If New York is to have a state legislature that is responsive to the interests of the constituents rather than keeping itself in office, citizens must demand this change from their legislators.
The 1960s were now upon us. At the end of our block there was a huge sump. It was three whole blocks square. For people not familiar with sumps, they were used primarily for sewer water to run off in. The one at the end of our block was and still is one of the biggest sumps around. It was a big 25-foot deep hole filled with rocks and sand. Absolutely no shrubs or grass inside it. It had millions of rocks. Half was for the sewer water and the other half was empty. A six-foot high barb wired fence surrounded the whole sump. There was a locked gate at the corner of Miller Road and Ronald Avenue.
In the early years we never paid much attention to it. All of the families walked their dogs by the sump. In the summer you could smell the dog poop for blocks. Opposite the entrance by the sump was a vacant lot with two big trees. We did what every kid would’ve done: build tree forts in them. Both forts had lookout towers, which made us climb to the top. We were fearless. I can only remember two of us getting hurt. One was me when I leaped from the lower branches and landed on a piece of wood with a big nail protruding from it. I landed and the nail went right through my sneaker and out of the top of my foot. The other problem was much greater. One of the older kids (13 years old) fell asleep in the tree fort and fell out, breaking his leg. The fireman came with the ambulance and our tree forts were history.
I can remember it as if it was just yesterday. Feb. 22, 1958, the real Washington’s Birthday – the day that my family left the Bronx and officially moved to Hicksville. My father put my mother and three kids into his 1950 two-door Chrysler and headed for the Whitestone Bridge (Throgs Neck Bridge was not built yet). It was a Saturday!
I can remember my mother was upset over leaving the Bronx. She believed that the Bronx air was better for us.
On Miller Road was a brand new Cape Cod frame house. The model of that house was on the corner of Woodbury Road and East Street. My parents were wise enough to have extras added to the house. A one car garage, cost $300; half dormer completely framed with a center hallway $800; complete cement basement entrance (with door and drain) $150; extra bathroom upstairs $150 (complete). The total cost of the house was $16,000 with a 30-year mortgage. They had achieved the “American Dream.”
The drive toward secularization in American public schools since the 1960s is most unfortunate because without religious understanding, it becomes difficult to comprehend everything from the Reformation and settlement of the New World to the force behind abolitionism and the great social reform movements of the 19th century that shaped our history. It’s also wonderfully ironic.
Public education began by the Puritans because they believed knowledge of the world was connected to knowledge of its Creator; that the Bible and other theological writings deemed essential to the individual’s salvation could only facilitate that salvation if the individual was literate enough to comprehend Scripture. The philosophy was a continuation of the link between religious institutions and educational institutions that hark back to the Middle Ages with the church creating the universities of Europe that later served as a substrate for the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Indeed, by 1660, there were more than 400 public schools in England and, among their kindred in the Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies, the literacy rate was as high as 85 percent. That’s a sobering thought when we pause to consider that in 2011 America’s literacy rate is lower than Russia, Western Europe, Japan and Singapore and that, indeed, many counties in the U.S. had a higher literacy rate in 1880.
Governor Cuomo has proposed to eliminate funding for 4201 Schools (for deaf/blind/physically challenged students) for the 2011-12 school year. As a result, Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf students, and those from 10 other 4201 schools, are in jeopardy! A child who is deaf, blind or physically challenged did not cause the state’s $10 billion deficit. It is wrong to abandon the state’s more than 100-year commitment to these special schools through which these students become productive citizens. It is also wrong to shift these costs to the more than 45 school districts, which send students to Mill Neck Manor!
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