Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark (D-Queens) today announced her disappointment at the passage of A.10256, the Assembly budget package for education that neglects to allocate the $2.82 billion in operating aid for New York City schools this year as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) court order. The order requires that the funds be phased in over four years, meaning that $1.41 billion is past due from last year.
Assemblywoman Clark has stated that "while Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Assembly should be commended for doing much more than Governor Pataki and the Senate, the Assemblyís actions are nonetheless woefully inadequate." The Assembly has decided to compromise on CFE by only partially addressing the 13 year old struggle.
Inaction on the CFE order in this surplus year is inexcusable and irresponsible. With an estimated surplus of up to $4 billion, we have decided to squander it by offering an excessive tax cut package. The Assemblyís tax package totals $2.4 billion. A large portion comes from the child tax credit that offers a $200 to $400 credit to families with incomes under $150,000 and children under 17. It presents a "safer" option than Governor Patakiís education tax credit proposal, as Governor Patakiís proposal is clearly a back door to vouchers. While the child tax credit is not a voucher, it is still talked of in terms of educational expenses. These funds would be better used directly invested into our public schools.
It is especially important that we fulfill our obligations to our children, as the gaps of opportunity continue to widen. New York Cityís children, along with children from other struggling school districts are being left behind, and their ability to succeed upon leaving school is questionable. The State University of New York (SUNY) has opened up two of its minority aid programs to all students in the state as a way to avoid litigation. While trying to minimize legal entanglements, SUNY is ignoring the problems of elementary and secondary education, as these public schools are the gateway to higher education. Without an adequate middle school and high school education, minority students will not be able to compete for scholarships against students that come from wealthy districts that spend twice as much or more on their education.
While Mayor Bloomberg has joined the fight for New York City schoolchildren and has been diligently advocating for $1.8 billion in building aid, he needs to continue to raise the volume. He has not taken the next step to publicly call upon Governor Pataki to withdraw his appeal of the CFE decision and ask for the CFE operating aid that is past due.
Assemblywoman Clark believes that now is not the time to compromise our responsibility to our children in order to ensure a timely but inadequate budget. We must stand up for the CFE decision, and make sure that all $27 billion gets delivered to New York City over the next four years.