New York State Assembly candidate Joe Dujmic today called his opponent's proposals on state education "lacking in substance and punitive to parents," and said the plan "reflects Mr. Lupinacci's school board record of raising taxes in seven of the nine years he served, while cutting services."
"My opponent today released an education initiative that is peppered with talking point platitudes, but offers no real plan to address the inequity in state aid that for too long has over-burdened the taxpayers of Long Island school districts," Dujmic said.
"He has added insult to injury by increasing taxes by 51 percent in the last nine years in the South Huntington district where he sits, while in that same period voting to eliminate services such as full-day kindergarten and laying off teachers," Dujmic added. "Mr. Lupinacci's record of raising taxes - 51 percent over nine years -- demonstrates that he does not feel the struggles of taxpayers and parents in the district."
According to Dujmic, the initiative announced today on his opponent's campaign website announced what Lupinacci himself termed "pay-to-play for sports programs, extracurricular activities and transportation."
"My opponent's proposal would force parents to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for their child's activities. What about the financially struggling family with a talented athlete or musician? What are their options?," Dujmic said.
"What about families with working parents who rely daily on the school's buses? If they can't afford Mr. Lupinacci's 'pay-to-play' transportation system, then are their children walking dangerous roads and long distances? Or will they be excluded from receiving an education?," he said.
"This is a surprisingly tone-deaf proposal from somebody who has sat on a school board for the last nine years. I have dedicated my professional life to protecting children in Family Court," said Dujmic, a former Assistant Suffolk County Attorney who assisted in removing children from abusive homes. "A pay-to-ride proposal for school transportation is irresponsible and discriminatory."
Reaction from the educational community was equally strong.
"We know that one of the things that helps keep many students in school and engaged are the various extracurricular programs available to all students, including sports," said Ron Smith, New York State United Teachers' Long Island regional PAC coordinator. "To make the ability to pay a criteria to participate in extracurricular activities is a form of discrimination. That's not acceptable in our public education system.
"The state and school districts have a responsibility to provide equal access to all programs to all students in our schools, regardless of students' economic standing. Family income should have no role in deciding whether a child learns to play the violin, participates in the Debate Club, or suits up for varsity football."
NYSUT has endorsed Dujmic in the race, even though Lupinacci is a member of the union.
Addressing School Aid Inequity
Dujmic noted that the Lupinacci press release acknowledged inequity in state aid funding for Long Island districts, but provided no specific plan to address the long-standing imbalance that punishes this region where property values have soared over income for decades.
According to Dujmic, 80-percent of educational funding for districts in Suffolk County is provided by local property taxes; that percentage is dramatically lower in other parts of New York State.
Dujmic said he is intrigued by a proposal that has been developed by a fellow Assembly candidate (and Seaford School Board member) John Brooks, that would establish equitable state funding throughout New York of all core educational expenses, remove that burden off of property taxpayers, and that would recognize regional cost-of-living differences in providing education.
"In the past nine years, Mr. Lupinacci's only answer to inadequate state aid has been to raise property taxes in South Huntington," Dujmic said. "The real answer requires someone in Albany who will tirelessly advocate for equity and comprehensive reform, not just throw up their hands and raise taxes."
Joe Dujmic (pronounce Dudge-mick) is a private practice attorney and small business owner based in the Town of Huntington. A graduate of St. Johns University (criminal justice) and New York Law School (juris doctor) the native Long Islander announced his candidacy in February of this year in the 10th Assembly District.
His candidacy has been endorsed by: U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; U.S. Congressman Steve Israel; Legislator William Spencer, MD; Legislator Steve Stern; Legislator Lou D'Amaro; Legislator DuWayne Gregory; Legislator Kate Browning; former Legislator Jon Cooper; New York State United Teachers' (NYSUT); Long Island Federation of Labor/ New York State AFL-CIO; New York State Public Employees Federation; Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees; New York City Corrections Officers' Benevolent Association; NARAL Pro-Choice New York; Communications Workers of America Local 1108; 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East;