We are writing in response to your Feb. 16 letter to fellow New Yorkers on education reform. We agree that New Yorkers elected you to be their voice in Albany and to make tough decisions; it is also true that New Yorkers elected 5,000 school board members around the state to be the voice of their school districts.
Few issues are as critical to the future of our state as fundamentally reforming our education system. We are prepared to work closely with you to make the necessary changes so schools can provide a high quality education at the lowest possible cost.
Your letter suggested four ways in which school districts can absorb your proposed state aid reductions without laying off teachers, cutting programs or harming students. The following is NYSSBA’s Four-Point Plan to help us achieve those goals:
My Fellow New Yorkers,
You elected me to be your voice in Albany and to make tough decisions. Few issues are as critical to the future of our state as reforming our education system.
Right now, we rank number one in the nation in spending per student, and number 34 in student achievement. Worse still, these poor results are coming after a decade of record spending increases in education funding.
Throwing money at the problem is not the answer. We need to cut the bureaucratic fat and champion reforms that will help our students achieve their true potential.
We need to spend smarter. To this end I have proposed a $250 million fund for competitive awards to school districts that have the greatest improvement in student performance. A similar fund of $250 million will reward school districts that produce the most innovative means to cut waste from the system.
Both before and after the enactment of a control period by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on Jan. 26, budget reform and the renegotiation of union agreements with Nassau County have been the call of the day.
Accusations by various groups and individuals that paint the county worker as the No. 1 reason why the county has fallen into this financial abyss, are wrong and baseless. True, county workers are paid with public funds that are derived from taxes for the most part. That’s true in any county in America. But people seem to forget that the Nassau County workforce is a small part of the county resident’s property tax bill.
The Nassau County Interim Finance Authority or “NIFA” recently issued a control period over County finances. NIFA is comprised of non-elected and unaccountable individuals appointed by State politicians.
Many supporters have asked me if NIFA’s action is politically motivated since its board is comprised of the former Vice-Chairman of the Democrat Party and the political campaign treasurer for the former Democrat Presiding Officer of Nassau County. The Board’s statement that the board is bipartisan is hollow as the Republican member is former County Executive Tom Suozzi’s budget director.
My supporters and the media should know that while I am concerned that NIFA is politically motivated and partisan, I am alarmed that the architects of Nassau’s budget mess are now acting as its watchdog.
Our state is at a crossroads. After years of overtaxing and overspending, we are at the fiscal brink. We can continue down our current road to financial ruin or we can take a new course – a road to recovery.
Yesterday I submitted my Executive Budget and today [Feb. 3] I released a message about it that you can see at www.governor.ny.gov.
The budget is designed to get our state on the right path by eliminating a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or borrowing. Just as importantly, it will transform our state’s budget process itself.
Those who know me know of my affiliation with various cultural, historical, scientific and religious institutions in the area. Why do I dedicate so much of my life to these institutions for which I earn little or no financial compensation and struggle with energy-draining chronic health ailments? In a society in which fewer and fewer people join churches, clubs and civil organizations, it’s a sense of duty. It’s the understanding that not only have we outsourced our citizens’ jobs, we’ve also outsourced knowledge and learning itself; our children and grandchildren’s greatest inheritance. We have subcontracted human knowledge out to professionals – scientists, technicians, theologians, scholars and academicians – who are not the reliable guardians they once were.
(Editor’s Note: Since Stanley Greenberg is on vacation this week, in this issue we present an encore of a column that originally ran on Jan. 28, 2005.)
The winter of 1948 prepared me for the future. The snowfall that winter was 24 inches and the East Bronx that I lived in came to a definite standstill. Life to me, a 14-year-old, was a series of basketball and stickball games with a little bit of junior high school thrown in. The snow was interfering with my athletic career.
Somehow, my friend and basketball buddy Herby and I got hold of a couple of shovels. We shoveled off the playground on the corner of Bryant Avenue and 176th Street and we shot baskets, played 21, One-on-One and Horse. We had been served sour lemons and we turned it into lemonade. Guts and ingenuity made for a memorable experience.
Who do I consider people worth remembering during Black History Month? Booker T. Washington? Yes. W.E.B. DuBois? Of course. Frederick Douglas? Naturally. Martin Luther King? Goes without saying. There are, however, four other unsung heroes in the cause of freedom, five men who dedicated much of themselves to the abolition of slavery. For Black History Month, let’s all remember them.
Elias Hicks (1748-1830) of Jericho was from a freedom-loving Quaker tradition that understood that freedom of conscience works hand-in-hand with freedom of body. Consequently, our area became a seedbed of abolitionism wherein manumission was not only advocated, where runaway slaves were not only granted sanctuary, but also where schools and places of worship were established in locales like Jericho and Jerusalem (now the north Wantagh/south Levittown area). From the Quaker meeting house he founded in Jericho in 1788, Hicks became a nationally prominent figure in the 1810s and ’20s as he traveled the countryside preaching. He was the spirit behind New York State’s Abolition of Slavery Act of 1827.
It appears the Webber Law Group, of Melville, isn’t giving up the effort to force an unnecessary and unwanted mall to be built on the Cerro Wire property in Syosset.
They have launched an end run around the area residents and the Town of Oyster Bay by appealing to the Nassau County Planning Commission. We have been living for many years with the result of Planning Commission decisions (build stores on any size, any piece of vacant land in Nassau) … good thinking!
They say construction jobs are needed, jobs will be created, etc. Notice to all the lawyers working against area residents and the struggling Broadway Mall and the Walt Whitman Mall: Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
Martin Luther King is a national hero on the scale of a George Washington or Thomas Edison in that he changed what seemed to be impossible to change. He galvanized the nation to a cause of injustice. He stood up to oppression in the same way that Jesus stood up to it by saying no and refusing to comply. Without attack, aggression or violence he refused to participate and committed to forging a new way. He said you can take my life but you cannot change me. That, in itself, is a commendable characteristic but we honor him because he was successful.
The first march on Washington proved to our capital that things needed to be changed to reflect the growing educated constituency. Subsequent marches were little more than pomp and fanfare. We constantly want things to change for the better but they seldom do. Dr. Martin Luther King opened the door and now we all continue to walk through it.
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