Council in the news on school budgets

Sunday, May 17th, 2009 at 9:57 pm by

I’m quoted in two downstate weekend newspapers on issues in the upcoming budget votes.

The Journal News, serving Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties, ran a column noting that most school districts in their region had proposed budgets with low spending and tax increases, but asking whether it would be enough to satisfy voters.

The writer cited my blog post last week on voter turn-out patterns. We also had a long conversation. She quoted my observation, that looking at statewide averages, proposed school budgets this year have lowest tax increase in seven years, despite the lowest state aid increase in six years.

She also read me a letter from a voter and asked for my reaction. The voter commended her district on its low proposed tax increase but asked “what took so long?”

In part, I said that terrible economic news has been so pervasive that it made the need for spending restraint easier to justify to school communities.

Newsday wrote about the role of federal stimulus aid. At the end of the article, I’m quoted expressing hope that the increase in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) special education funding will be made permanent, noting that meeting the statutory target of funding 40 percent of costs has been a long-held goal of Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.

During my visit to Washington last month, there was strong support for that course among the New York delegation members whose offices we met with.

I spoke with the reporter at length and echoed what New York superintendents and I said to Congressional offices:  First, that the state budget could not have turned out as well as it did for New York schools without the federal stabilization aid, but it meant that schools were spared cuts, not that they had new resources.  Second, that schools would do good things for students with Title I and IDEA increases, but planning was hindered by uncertainties over how the money could be used and whether it would last past two years.

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