Opinion

(Ed.'s note: The following letter was sent to BOE President Larry Greenstein and printed here at the writer's request.)

In its Aug. 16 editorial entitled, "Shrinking New York's Budget," The New York Times had this to say about state aid to school districts:

"School budgets have already been allocated for a school year that begins in a few weeks." (The Times is in error here. The new school year began July 1. Classes, not the school year, begin in a few weeks.) Mr. Paterson and the legislature should be thinking now about how to trim next year's spending fairly. They should abandon the complicated formula that overcompensates rich school districts at the expense of poorer ones."

For many years now, I have been saying that the affluent and super-affluent school districts like ours, like Great Neck, like Manhasset, Roslyn, Syosset, Jericho, Locust Valley, Oyster Bay, Garden City and others, should not receive a cent in state aid, but rather, that those funds should be redirected to the poorer districts like Roosevelt, Hempstead, Wyandanch, Harlem, Bed Sty and others, so that those school districts would finally have the financing they lack to construct the new school facilities they so desperately need and that they would finally have the funds to hire superior teachers and staff. Frankly, I believe that it is financially obscene for our school district to take $6 - $7 million each year from the state in scarce aid funds, when we could easily raise those funds in our own rich community. Our current school budget is approximately $121 million. As you can see, state aid accounts for perhaps 5% - 6% of our spending needs. We do not need that small handout from the state and neither do the wealthy districts that I've mentioned above. There is no school program or service that we cannot afford to pay for ourselves. There are many school programs and services that the poorer school districts cannot afford to pay for themselves.

We, in Port Washington, have always proclaimed that our school district is one of the most innovative and progressive in the state. In addition, we say that we are highly concerned about the humanitarian needs of others. Our school district's recent fundraising efforts for the victims of a tsunami in far off Asia and for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, closer to home, confirm our humanitarian beliefs. Therefore, I am writing to you now to urge you to immediately contact Albany, to request that our school district not receive any state aid monies in the future. I also urge you to request that the aid that we would have received be redirected to the poorer districts in the state. I believe that by taking this innovative step, Port Washington will prove to all that there is no more progressive and right thinking school district in the state. Hopefully, other affluent school districts will then follow our lead.

In response to my suggestion, some in our community may say, "but we have some children in our schools who receive free lunch, or reduced price lunch." "Doesn't that prove that there are economically disadvantaged families living in our community and so, doesn't that mean we should be receiving aid?" I believe that the answer to that is, yes and no. There are some economically disadvantaged families living here, but I also believe that while they manage to live here, those families are providing services to our community that we need and want. Because of that, I believe that our community owes it to those families to subsidize their children's school lunches and to perhaps pay for some other minor costs of those kids attending school. I believe that this is an education cost that our community can easily afford to pay for.

I thank you for taking the time to read this letter and to consider my suggestion about state aid. I do hope that you will act on my suggestion.

Joel Katz


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