Schools are asking Cuomo to play fair

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The Governor has proposed that we decrease funding for schools, cap the salaries of “highly overpaid” public school superintendents, and yet dramatically improve graduation rates across the state. In his position, he has the bully pulpit for New York State and can make statements as fact - painting a broad picture, but one that may be more rhetorical than real.

As rural upstate school board presidents we take exception with some of his assertions. We acknowledge that New York State is in the worst economic situation that we have seen for over 80 years.  We, as school boards, do not disagree with the need for reform or the need to reduce expenses, but the governor and our elected officials in Albany have not heeded our recommendations for reform for decades.  We have asked for mandate relief, capping the contribution by the districts for retirement, capping the health care contributions, and freeing us from the constraints of collective bargaining, but they have been unwilling to assist us in these endeavors.

The Governor announced in February that he was cutting education statewide by 7 percent.  His 7 percent is actually an average for the entire state, not a true 7 percent cut for each school district. A number of upstate districts are facing losses of $1,300-1,900 per student in state aid, while some downstate districts are losing $600-1,000 per student. For our rural, small-city, and low- wealth districts we are looking for a more equitable distribution of state aid.

The other topic regarding education that the governor is advocating for deals with superintendent salaries. He suggests that public school superintendents are over-paid. While at least one superintendent has a salary approaching $400,000 and others are over $300,000, they are few in number and are not found in this area of the state. The savings from a superintendent salary cap for our districts would not solve the losses proposed for our cuts in state aid. Also, the governor noted low graduation rates as an indication of wasteful spending; actuall,y in our region, the graduation rates approach 95-100 percent.

We need to stay on task and not allow the governor’s diversionary tactics to distract us from the issues that impact an equitable education for our children.  The issues are equitable distribution of state aid, mandate relief and adequate funding of public education.  We cannot create an educated citizenry by de-funding education.

Jeff Morehouse,

President, Penn Yan School Board

and 14 other board presidents