In the past week I've received three flyers making claims that Elizabeth Black, and by extension, the Huntington School Board has been irresponsible in it's spending in the past six years. As president of the board for three of those years I feel compelled to set the record straight on this matter.
First, school boards across New York are faced with multiple factors beyond their control that continually increase costs. In addition to countless unfunded mandates, school boards have little leverage in negotiations with their employee unions as witnessed by the fact that the Huntington teachers are currently working without a contract because it is financially better than any deal they could negotiate. I don't blame them for it, they are just playing by the rules as they exist today.
As to the reality of the comparative spending by the Huntington School Board, data pulled from the Tax Report Cards published by all NY school districts provides an enlightened perspective for those tax increases.
Over the past six years the majority of districts on Long Island have seen decreases in enrollment as people are being driven out by the local economy. In contrast, Huntington schools have seen the fourth largest increase in enrollment of the 125 school districts reporting on Long Island in this period. This increase in enrollment has brought with it a change in demographics that require additional teachers to provide state mandated support services for these new children. Despite these forces acting to increase costs, Huntington's spending per pupil saw the second smallest increase of all districts on Long Island over this period, a truly admirable feat. Finally, and most importantly, each budget in those six years was approved by a vote of the community, last year by an incredible 2 to 1 margin. This annual budget vote is a standard of acceptance unique to school boards as elected bodies and one I daresay, would make other community "leaders" shudder.
I guess those who created the recent flyers slamming Ms. Black adhere to the axiom "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story." This is not the attitude I want to see from anyone vying to be my elected representative.