Friday, 25 February 2011 00:00
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.
In the debate over the state budget, it is important to focus on the facts instead of overheated rhetoric. While I have asked state agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent, I have only sought an average 2.9 percent reduction in overall school spending. And I have suggested many ways in which school districts can absorb these reductions without laying off teachers, cutting programs or harming students.
• School districts have $1.5 billion in reserves and unspent federal funds that will allow many to absorb the proposed $1.5 billion cuts without service reduction.
• Freezing wages, as I have proposed to do for state workers, would save school districts $1.1 billion.
• Having school district employees make the same health care contributions that state employees make would result in $500-$600 million in savings.
• Cutting the salaries of the more than 2,000 high priced school administrators who receive more than $150,000 in salaries and benefits would result in substantial savings.
At a time when New Yorkers are watching every penny, we can no longer afford to throw money at a system bloated with waste and inefficiency. By coming together and acknowledging that fixing our schools means placing the interests of our students ahead of special interests, we can make New York’s schools the envy of the rest of the nation.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo