Angry New Yorker

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
[Ed. note - here it comes again. Does the NYS legislature know any phrase beyond "higher taxes"?]

March 30, 2004 -- HOW many billions of dollars more in state spending will it take to satisfy the constitutional mandate of a "sound basic education" for all public school students in New York?
With yesterday's report [available here as PDF] ]by Gov. Pataki's Commission on Education Reform (chaired by financier Frank Zarb), we now have at least three sets of answers to that question:

* The Zarb Commission said a range of $2.5 billion to $5.6 billion per year ought to suffice.

* The Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), whose successful court challenge to the school aid formula for New York City brought this issue to a head, claims the increase should be more like $10 billion.

* The Board of Regents, the state's educational policymaking body, has proposed a $6 billion hike in state school aid.

The average of all these figures is roughly $6.2 billion a year - with only the Zarb report attempting to tie more money to improved results. All of this begs another big question that the victorious CFE plaintiffs and their cheerleaders in the state Legislature have so far refused to face:

Where in the world is the money supposed to come from?

It's not as if New Yorkers aren't already digging deep for their schools. We spent $11,515 per public-school pupil in 2002-03 - tops in the nation and 47 percent above the U.S. average. Moreover, state school aid has risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past decade. This is a big reason why New York's combined state and local tax burden is second highest in America.

Yet even with last year's record (and supposedly temporary) tax increase, Albany is barely making ends meet. The governor projects a budget gap of $2.9 billion for fiscal 2005-06, growing to $4.3 billion for 2006-07. And once the Legislature gets done adding more spending to Pataki's proposals for next year, these future gaps will only grow larger.

[rest of article here]

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