As April 1 approaches, the progress on a final state budget is moving rapidly. Conference committees are being held; debates are underway; and it seems as if New York will have its first on-time budget in several years. The 2011-12 budget process has demonstrated to me how urgently New York needs to get its fiscal house in order. Spending reductions have to be made across the board and further challenges will lie ahead.
While budget cuts are necessary, we have to prioritize state spending to protect our children and their educational opportunities. Governor Cuomo’s proposed school aid reductions are large: $1.5 billion in cuts have been proposed. The state Senate and Assembly added partial restorations in their one-house budget bills, but this still leaves intact a funding shortfall of millions of dollars. Long Island schools are bound to suffer with a school aid cut of this size. Our community’s fair share falls fairly short.
Efforts at providing an excellent education to Long Island’s children should not be undermined. We have high-quality education systems in Nassau County that shouldn’t have to face more financial burdens in an already tight economy. Although New York is in a fiscal mess, a $1.5 billion cut in school aid is too deep and too dangerous to our schools. The budget cuts need to spread out across the board instead of falling squarely on the backs of schoolchildren.
With budget negotiations progressing smoothly, I will most likely be voting on the budget this week. I have called on the Governor and Legislative Leaders to reconsider the school aid cuts and restore the funding. Unless something changes with school aid funding, however, I will not support this portion of the budget. Our standards for education in New York need to remain high and Long Island schools deserve to be treated more fairly.