Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
If you’re a Seinfeld fan like me, you’ll probably remember the episode “Bizarro Jerry,” in which the gang’s world seems strangely inversed. The writers were apparently inspired by the Bizarro World found in the old DC comic books where good and sensible things were shunned and stupidity and recklessness were embraced.
I think I work in Bizarro Albany sometimes, especially after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proposal to give convicted felons free college educations on our taxpayer dime. Our governor has actually proposed providing prison inmates with free associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and he’s serious. His public relations machine is already out in full force.
They claim it’s to reduce recidivism, the rate at which released inmates return to prison and base it on one very small, privately funded inmate college program that produced 250 graduates. (There are more than 55,000 inmates in New York.) Their recidivism rate was about 4 percent, compared to the state-wide average 41 percent. But most agree the results were inherently flawed as those inmates were already focused on improving themselves and were the least likely to return to prison.
In any case, we all understand the value of inmate rehabilitation and as I’ve said before, society benefits when you educate anyone. But let’s get real. It may be you reading this column, or it may be a friend or neighbor, but we all know someone being crushed by sacrifice to send their kids to college. They’re refinancing their homes, borrowing against pensions, working countless hours of overtime and two or three jobs. And it’s still not enough. Our children are graduating and starting their lives with astonishing debt, the total surpassing $1 trillion nationally.
Tuition at private universities jumped 474 percent from 1970 to 1990. In 1980, it commanded about 26 percent of the median family income while in 2004, it was 56 percent.
Why not give families who are putting their children through college a reasonable tax credit? Or at least extend it to those working full-time, like single moms, to put themselves through school. Or even minimally lower the cost of our state university. We could restore funding to extend the Tuition Assistance Program to graduate students or offer low-cost, state-backed loans. I can think of countless better ways to invest in higher education, but in all of them, the taxpayer would take priority.
Supporters claim that the “estimated” expenditure of $5,000 per inmate will eventually save some of $60,000 per year on each felon. I suggest their time would be better spent asking why New York prisons cost as much as an Ivy-League education and then looking for savings within that system. Our first responsibility is to be good stewards of public monies, not use it to gain votes via special interests.
It is not coincidence that the governor’s proposal dovetails with a recent national effort to change how convicted felons regain their right to vote. Traditionally, government demands a waiting period with the understanding that if you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you should hardly have the right to shape it for everyone else. This common sense, social contract is now being assailed by partisan groups trying lure a potential new voting bloc.
New York has a long and venerable tradition of taking care of our most vulnerable, but this is simply ill-conceived. If they wanted to make a difference, they’d focus on getting inner city schools on track to give real opportunities and avoid prison all together.
Please sign the petition on my website at http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/say-no-taxpayer-funded-college-inmates-3 and say no to Attica University.
Last Updated (Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00) Saturday, 25 October 2014 00:00
James Sokol and Jake Leeds from Boy Scout Troop 298 recently completed their service projects.
Sokol and fellow Scouts replaced the backboards, rims and nets in the basketball court in Nuzzi Park. They also trimmed trees and repainted the court lines.
Last Updated (Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00) Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
The debate over New York State Common Core standards continues, with students from local school districts showing a mild resistance to the exams.
According to the New York State Allies for Public Education, 39 students in the Herricks School District opted out of the English exam, while 74 did not take the math test. For the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District, 17 students did not take the English test while 18 refused to take the math test.
Thursday, 23 October 2014 00:00
The Sewanhaka Indians varsity football team hosted Elmont Spartans on Saturday, Oct. 18 in its final home game of the regular season.
It certainly did not go as the Indians had hoped, falling 18-8, in a mistake filled game. Head coach George Kasimatis said the Indians had their chances, but kept digging themselves into a hole with mental mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Playing from behind, senior running back Brenton Mighty was able to break free for a long touchdown run, to put the Indians on the board.
Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00
Sewanhaka Indians Head football coach George Kasimatis told his team to expect a dogfight in this weeks game against the New Hyde Park Gladiators, and he was right after its 35-21 victory last week.
“All the kids know each other really well, it’s always competitive when we play each other,” he said.