They’re Cutting Bone

By Senator Jack M. Martins, 7th Senate District, Op-ed

My wife and I know a successful, young couple that live in a spacious Manhattan apartment. They have lots of dining and entertainment options, a doorman and great views of a park. Best of all, they roll out of bed, hop on a subway and they’re at the office in a matter of minutes. They’ve got it made, yet everyone’s debating how long before they move to the suburbs.  

You guessed it. This dynamic duo now has a newborn and as with many young families, conversations turn to where best to raise a family. Of course, they’re dutifully fighting it. Hoboken has a “hip little downtown.” Williamsburg has a “good vibe” but ultimately, the conclusion is always the same: growing families need room to grow in safe communities with good schools.

Education has been part of this equation for as long as I can remember. I’ve known people who paid top dollar for drafty old houses with bad plumbing on busy streets, just to get into a particular school district. And background, faith, or politics don’t matter; we are united in wanting what’s best for our children. Real estate agents say this is key to our robust real estate market. Being a stone’s throw away from Manhattan with good schools is an enviable distinction but one that could now be in jeopardy.

Governor Hochul’s recently proposed budget contains some especially controversial changes to state aid formulas that hurt our schools.  For starters, she’s eliminating 1976’s “hold harmless” provision that gave schools planning stability by guaranteeing at least the same level of funding year to year. That’s because schools couldn’t fairly be expected to put programs in place one year and then pull the rug out on children and parents the next. Unfortunately, this effort will result in more than $167 million in cuts to 337 districts, more than half of the districts in the state.  

She’s also changing “school aid runs.” So instead of computing for current inflation, she’s using an 8-year average, which lowers the amount of aid by another $245 million.  Frankly, I can’t think of a greater end run on accountability. Do our school superintendents get to tell labor, vendors, or even their insurance that they won’t pay increased fees and prefer to pay an “8-year average?” This is no time for make-believe.  If it wouldn’t work in our personal budgets, it won’t work in theirs either.

Combine these two policy changes and 44% of the state’s 673 school districts are due to receive less state funding in the next fiscal year. My senate district alone in Nassau County is facing a drop of $5.2 million and educators and parents alike are in a panic. The Governor would have you believe that we can just change brands of soap and make those savings, but they’re not cutting fat, they’re cutting bone.  These funds pay for things like special education, development programs, music, and art – things that make our schools special. And in this economy to ask families to pay more is nothing short of government malpractice.  Let’s face it. In a $233 billion budget that’s growing by an obscene $5.9 billion in state operating funds, savings can certainly be found elsewhere. She’s spending $2.4 billion on illegal migrants, $275 million on artificial intelligence and even $150 million on swimming pools. Are students somehow less important?

Our suburbs place a high value on family life and safety and schools are the backbone of these communities. The Governor seems to be attacking our lifestyle on all these fronts, even playing politics with our kids.  It’s time to lock arms and voice our opposition.

Petition to Restore School Funding:


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