Editor's Note: The following release was issued by Assemblyman Brian Curran, R-Lynbrook:
It’s a common misconception around New York State that every resident of Nassau County is rich. Thanks to this unfounded belief, the governor and a majority of the State Legislators feel it’s appropriate to give Nassau County kids less than their "fair share" of state educational aid. Why? Because we are “too rich” and don’t need it. Boy, are they wrong.
Year after year, Long Island schools are disadvantaged by a funding formula that is inherently biased against it. This funding formula was created to favor urban areas like New York City, Buffalo and Syracuse, while forgetting about suburban counties like Nassau and Suffolk – two areas that educate approximately 18 percent of the state’s children. But, due to the unfair education formula, we receive only 12 percent of the education aid in the state budget back – a number which falls far short of what we are owed.
Despite these facts, our kids and school districts consistently get cheated out of their fair share of educational aid. This year is no different. Under Gov. Cuomo's proposed Executive Budget for 2013-2014, New York City schools receive $216 per student in educational aid; upstate schools receive $204 per student; but schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties only receive $149 per student in aid. That’s a startling disparity.
Gov. Cuomo has drastically cut the high-tax aid and building aid portions of the educational funding formula, directly affecting our schools. Nassau County was cut $19.6 million in high-tax aid this year under the proposed budget, representing a 35 percent reduction. Overall, Nassau and Suffolk counties suffer 74 percent of the statewide reduction in high-tax aid. As Long Island homeowners pay the highest taxes in New York, my colleagues in the Legislature from Nassau and Suffolk and I have consistently worked to lessen the burden by providing highly-taxed working families and seniors with school tax relief.
By directly giving school districts much-needed funding in the form of high-tax and building aid, the impact of school taxes on our working families and seniors is lessened. This year we are met with great resistance.
The consequences of Gov. Cuomo’s unfair proposal will be felt in homeowners’ wallets. This poor decision blatantly discriminates against our kids on the basis of their parents living on Long Island. Nothing shocks the conscience more. It’s typical Albany lunacy. Our working families and seniors shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for the accelerating cost of education statewide, especially while other regions are seeing proposed increases in their state school aid. Long Islanders deserve better.
I recently wrote to Gov. Cuomo to ask for the immediate and necessary restoration of funding cuts to our schools. The cuts in his proposal place undue hardships on school districts facing significant challenges and increased costs, especially after Hurricane Sandy. My request had one message: restore our school aid. I’ve yet to hear back from him.
Gov. Cuomo’s current distribution of school aid is simply unacceptable. I believe that we need to fight together so that our voices will be heard and our children will get their fair share.
For example, the East Rockaway School District, which is undertaking massive efforts to rebuild post-Sandy after its schools were flooded, is busing children to a neighboring school district that can accommodate them and teachers in addition to their own students. East Rockaway is in dire need of an increase in state funding to cope with the disaster’s increased costs. Residential properties and school buildings both were flooded and wiped out. This community needs as much assistance as possible. It’s sad and unfortunate that the governor proposed cutting this district’s aid by $253,940, a 4.4 percent decrease from last year. While building aid was reduced, high-tax aid to this community was pummeled down by 70 percent, from $575,562 last year to a mere $172,668 in 2013.
Baldwin, another community that sustained massive flooding, wind damage and already suffers from a high rate of commercial vacancies and closed businesses, received an embarrassingly small increase in its school aid to deal with the storm’s damage. The 0.56 percent increase in total school aid is not enough. While this district receives an increase as opposed to others that do not, the small change is negligible.
Oceanside, yet another community whose schools needed to close due to massive Sandy-related damage and flooding, was all over the news due to the superstorm’s utter destruction of the community. It, too, received a startling reduction in school aid – a decrease of almost $700,000. I don’t understand why the governor would choose to penalize school districts whose schools had to close because of the widespread flooding and damage.
While West Hempstead was spared the amount of devastation seen in these three other communities within my Assembly District, the school district also faces difficult times with a 3.93 percent proposed reduction in state aid, or a loss of about $304,449.
There’s no question that this must be fixed by the governor. All of Nassau County’s children deserve the same opportunities and funds as schoolchildren in other parts of New York State. There is no acceptable reason why students in New York City, Buffalo or Middletown should receive more school funding than we do. Picking on Long Island's schools and students is wrong. A disproportionate share of state education funds comes from Long Island – and the amount returned by Albany continues to get smaller and smaller every year. This cannot continue.