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Rally Backs Bigger Share of School Aid

Assemblymen cite loss of aid, unfunded mandates.

Educators and legislators from around Long Island rallied Monday in Huntington to press their complaints about how state aid is distributed to local school districts.

Gathering on the football field at Whitman High School, state Assembly Republicans, school board trustees, superintendents, PTA leaders and others emphasized the imbalance between what Long Islanders pay in taxes and what is returned to local districts as state aid.

Several speakers laid the problem of tight budgets and a declining return of state aid directly at the feet of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "Through his executive budget, Gov. Cuomo has not only continued using Long Island as the state's cash cow, but has revived the myth that this region is wealthy enough to forego its rightful school aid in order that it be redistributed elsewhere," said James March, president of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.

"In order to claim 'no new taxes' on its part, the state has resorted to taxing our local schools to balance its books," March said. "Throughout the past three years of its so-called 'gap elimination adjustment,' New York has raided Long Island's school budgets of nearly $1 billion."

Asssemb. Chad Lupinacci, R-Huntington Station, said, "All across Long Island, school districts are dealing with the consequences of the governor's broken promises." 

"As someone who spent the past eight years trying to balance the rising cost of education from the top down, I can assure you our current system is broken," Lupinacci, a former South Huntington school trustee, said. "without reform of the current system, students and residents across Long Island will continue to suffer with an unfair and burdensome system."

Several speakers said that the perception of Long Island as wealthy often worked against local districts.

"Long Island represents 17 percent of the school-age children in our state. Therefore we deserve our fair share by receiving 17 percent of all education funding in the budget. Anything less would be discrimination," Assemb. Joseph Saladino, R-Massapequa, said.

Speakers urged those attending the rally to communicate with their representatives to support their local school districts.

Dr. David Bennardo, South Huntington school superintendent, said the district had experienced a $240,000 cut in aid. "Where does it stop?" he said. "I'm hoping the message gets through to them in Albany."

Mandate relief, the easing of state requirements that are usually not accompanied by financial support, was another topic. Huntington superintendent James W. Polansky said mandates include pension and transportation costs.

"The legislature must provide real mandate relief for our schools," Saladino said.

Also of concern is the congressional inaction to head off across-the-board cuts scheduled to take place Friday that could affect school districts as well as may other government programs. Sequestration, as the cutbacks are known, "will definitely have an impact," South Huntington school board president James Kaden said.

Bill L. February 26, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Seriously folks-do you really think Cuomo cares? He knows LI has more to give and in true Democrat fashion he will bleed us some more in the form of increased taxes and less state aid. The end result will be the same-we will elect him again.
J.D. Smits February 26, 2013 at 04:13 PM
I actually think this is a misdirection technique. The issue is that local governments and school administrators are redundant and massively overpaid. Maintaining district lines and consolidating administration would have much more impact on cost than complaining to the state. Yes, many superintendents and assistant superintendents would loose their jobs. But frankly, they should, and the taxpayers would benefit.
SHSD_NeedsChange February 26, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Was the community informed of this rally? I would love to have been a part of it, but I never heard about it until now. Maybe if the school boards and superintendents from all districts coordinated we could really make a statement from the Island as a whole. If you have these associations and access to communicating with families...please do so!!
Free 2B Me February 27, 2013 at 02:25 AM
Not too late to let your voice be heard. Sign Assemblyman Lupinacci’s petition and tell Governor Cuomo to give Long Island children their fair share! http://assembly.state.ny.us/member_files/010/20130206/index.pdf http://www.thepetitionsite.com/326/988/153/give-long-island-its-fair-share-of-school-aid/
dinhuntington March 26, 2013 at 11:51 PM
This seems to be a redirection of accountability from the local schools to the Gov. Office. If it were not for Cuomos property tax cap, we would be seeing a year oin year increase versus a balanced budget. Basically the schools inneficiently spent revenue when available with out any concern of a potential reduction in expenses. Schools are burdened due to the teachers union unrealistic retirement plan/job security and the lack of accountability. Stop deflecting the tax payers issues from local municipalities to Albany

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