Monday, December 14, 2009

As Wall Street Readies to Receive Billions in Bonuses, New York Schools Face Layoffs and Budget Cuts

The New York Post is reporting that Governor David Patterson plans to withhold 10% of payments to schools and local governments as the state faces a $1bn budget shortfall.
New York Gov. David Paterson blamed the need to delay payments on the Legislature's failure to cut spending to schools and health care. As a result, he said the state is projected to fall $1 billion short of the sum needed to pay bills due Tuesday. For New Yorkers, the delays could mean restrictions on social services for the poor and working poor provided through counties and cities, reduced programs at schools, threats of layoffs at schools, and potentially higher local property taxes if schools and municipalities have to borrow to cover the shortfall. Paterson told reporters "I can't say this enough: The state has run out of money. We are $1 billion short,"
Paterson forced the Legislature into extraordinary session earlier this month to address the deficit of $3.2 billion to $4 billion. Ultimately, about $2.7 billion was addressed. The Legislature, under pressure from powerful teachers unions and school lobbyists, refused to cut any school aid midyear. School officials contended the midyear cuts would force layoffs and hurt instruction.
"Some of the poorer districts really don't have reserves," said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, a group that lobbies for schools and is often at odds with Paterson, who is seeking election in 2010. "The governor is playing a very dangerous game in mixing school funding payments with political posturing that he thinks will salvage his poll numbers."
Of course the same story is being repeated in several states struggling to balance their declining budgets such as California and Michigan. It is a stark reminder of the current sad state of affairs where we as a country can find billions to bail out Wall Street and fight global wars, but we cannot find the money need to fund our children's education and their future.
All this at a time when President Obama has launched his education initiative called Race to the Top, where he has magnanimously set aside a mere $4.3 billion (out of the $787 billion stimulus package) for education reforms. U.S. News Reports the President aims "to raise American students' dismal scores on international tests and improve their chances of succeeding in the global economy. "The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens". The hypocrisy of our leaders is simply stunning.

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