While State Aid To Education Increases, School District Costs Skyrocket
Guest blogger George Rand makes it short and sweet: Long Island's school districts are not doing enough to cut costs, and the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay the bill. Read on. . .
During the recent media blitz for more state aid by Long Island public school administrators, it was incredible that the topic of cutting school costs was never mentioned. Neither was there any comment on the key problem: soaring teachers salaries and benefits which are driving school budgets to unsustainable levels.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if school districts continue spending at current levels, many retirees will be forced to leave Long Island. School taxes are projected to rise six to eight percent or more this year, on top of similar increases in past years. The average Social Security retiree currently receives $1002 per month in benefits, a net increase of $29 over last year. This retiree will need to use half of those benefit checks to pay school taxes while the other half will go for medical insurance and drugs.
Meanwhile, the average Nassau County public school teacher will get araise in pay and benefits of $4,600 this year regardless of how well or how poorly he or she performs and the school superintendent's salary will be boosted by about $8,400, pushing that administrator's paycheck way above the pay of the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
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The New York Times reports on at least one Long Island school district where the Superintendent is earning more than $300,000 in salary and benefits. [Click HERE to read, Schools Practice Higher Math To Pay Leaders.]
"In all, at least 114 school administrators in Nassau and Suffolk are making $200,000 or more in salary and benefits combined, and 28 of them are assistant, associate or deputy superintendents," say the Times.
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Politics And The Strange Bedfellow
Often, the story behind the news is far more fascinating than the news itself.
Take LIFER, Long Islanders for Educational Reform. Frank Russo, one of LIFER's organizers, is the president of Port Washington Educational Assembly. Mr. Russo is also aligned with the New York chapter of the American Family Association (the folks who outed Sponge Bob and told you not to buy the American Doll, among other oddities). In fact, Frank Russo IS the New York chapter of AFA -- he is the group's president, and his personal e-mail address is the contact for www.afany.org.
Okay, the AFA, it's New York affiliate, and Frank Russo himself, are entitled to their homophobic, "God told us to boycott Ellen and Saturday Night Live" views. At least they're straight up about it.
But beware the back-door approach to reforming New York's education system by a group that has "links" (on it's website, and otherwise) to the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation ("The Christian Educational Voice for New York Families") and Citizens for Educational Freedom (fighting for "parents' rights to choose where their public educational funds are spent"). Both groups endorse school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, and other methods of using public tax money to finance private and parochial education. [Frank Russo himself publicly advocates tuition tax credits (the equivalent of public tax dollars up to half the cost of a public school education) for parents who incur out of pocket costs for tuition, books, etc.]
And that's fine, too, if you want your tax dollars diverted from our public schools to pay to send someone's child to private or parochial school. Just be upfront about it all when you hold LIFER's agenda out to John Q. Taxpayer.
Face it. For most of us, it is all about the school property tax, and how we can best use public money to finance a public education in the public schools. To some extent, this holds true for LIFER -- at least in it's public persona. It doesn't take much digging beneath the surface, however, to find that LIFER -- or at least it's organizers -- have a less publicized (if publicized at all) agenda, and would use public money, whether in the form of vouchers, tax credits or direct aid, to fill the coffers of private, and predominantly religious, institutions. And where would that leave our public schools? Even deeper in the fiscal morass, we're afraid.
Yes, support those who would challenge the school property tax, and who would seek alternative means of funding our public schools. Just be very careful who you get into bed with!