Local Educators Agree:
Pataki Budget Disastrous for Area Schools

Ramos, administrators hold press conference detailing damage to districts

Assemblyman Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) joined with local educators at a press conference today to denounce the governor's proposed $1.24 billion slash in education aid, saying the cut would increase class sizes, jeopardize teachers' jobs, and undermine the quality of schools across the state.

"For too long, our community has not received its fair share of state aid to education and now the governor wants to cut nearly $17 million from area schools," said Assemblyman Ramos, a member of the Assembly Education Committee. "Our classrooms are already overcrowded. These cuts will hurt our schools even more. Education is key to a child's future. The governor is balancing his budget on the backs of our children and community."

Local school administrators, teachers and activists were unanimous in their condemnation of the governor's plan:

"Governor Pataki has, in his budget proposal, dealt a severe blow to all Long Island school districts as well as the local taxpayers," said Alan Van Cott, Islip Public Schools superintendent. "In Islip, the substantial loss in state aid of more than $1 million, coupled with rising fixed costs and other unfunded mandates, will inevitably result in district cuts that will negatively impact the educational program offered to our students.

"What makes this news most unfortunate is that our community has been extremely supportive of our initiatives and overall program, and our student achievement has been steadily increasing over the past several years," Van Cott added. "Continued community support and increased student achievement are both at risk with the unprecedented cuts to education proposed by Governor Pataki."

The governor's budget plan calls for a $16.6 million reduction in state aid to the Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip and Islip school districts. Without adequate state aid, schools will be forced to cut essential educational programs, lay off teachers and increase local school taxes.

"Brentwood is the largest school district in Suffolk County, and 60 percent of our aid comes from the state. The governor owes us, and we cannot afford any more cuts," said Gail Kirkham, president of the Brentwood PTA Council. "If the governor cannot protect our children's education today, how does he expect them to compete for jobs tomorrow?"

"There is much work for us to do to make sure that the governor is held accountable and his horrendous cuts to education do not take place," said Les Black, superintendent of the Brentwood School District.

"These cuts could translate to 100 people losing their jobs, which is devastating to a district like ours," said Joe Hogan, president of the Brentwood Teachers Association.

"The Governor's intention to not tax the public but shift the burden onto the local governments will be absolutely devastating to our school district," said Dr. Jerry L. Jackson, superintendent of the Central Islip School District.

The governor's plan would also cut nearly $3.4 million from the Assembly's successful LADDER program, which is designed to reduce overcrowded classes like those in Bay Shore, Brentwood and Central Islip Schools. Those districts stand to lose $2 million in aid for class size reduction under the governor's proposal.

"We are a high-taxed area in a low-wealth district. We need all the state aid we can get for our children," said Barbara Bracciodieta, president of the Central Islip PTA Council.

"If the state aid cuts are implemented as proposed, the effects on our children and taxpayers will be devastating," said Mark Golde, assistant superintendent for business for the Bay Shore Union Free School District.

"Everyone here today has just one overarching goal: To provide the best future possible for our kids," Assemblyman Ramos said. "But the governor is standing in the way. It's time for him to join us in saying that education has to be a priority."

School 02-03 Aid 03-04 Aid Total Loss % Change
Bay Shore Union Free School District $27,440,835.00 $23,472,245.00 -$3,968,590.00 -14.46%
Brentwood Union Free School District $124,107,043.00 $118,178,864.00 -$5,928,179.00 -4.78%
Central Islip Union Free School District $53,159,672.00 $48,166,409.00 -$4,993,263.00 -9.39%
Islip Union Free School District $17,317,907.00 $15,546,023.00 -$1,771,884.00 -10.23%
TOTAL $222,025,457.00 $205,363,541.00 $16,661,916.00 -7.50%
Total Loss of LADDER