“My name used to be Me. But now, it’s You.”
Recently, I was reminded of those words when I was privileged to read some correspondence between a state legislator and a school district superintendent on the topic of the crisis of inequities in the proposed state education budget.
“Light reading?” you may ask. Sadly, no. Just more heavy evidence of the broken state of human interaction. Most of it is everyday stuff, coming into the station and passing quickly by, affecting a few on the platform with its wind. But at other times, as in this case, the wind is fanned by hubris grown through position. Many, too many, risk being blown away by its force, and most of them are children.
Please read the two letters in the pdf file below. Names, places, and details have not been expunged.
Bonacic-Eastwood (Correspondence used with permission.)
I have read with great interest numerous news articles over the past week, as well as your budget presentation on March 20th, detailing your objections to the Senate Budget Resolution in relation to education funding.
You are obviously engaged in partisan politics with regard to your inflammatory and misleading attacks on the Senate Budget Resolution, including your statement that “the Senate’s going to take care of New York City, but they’re not going to take care of your kids.” I would like to remind you that the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cut, which you allude to in your budget presentation, was created in 2010 when Governor Paterson and the New York City Democrats were in control of all branches of New York State Government.
Can you imagine witnessing this dialog as a spoken conversation? Notice how quickly the legislator becomes aggressive, making an unsubstantiated accusation of “partisan politics,” just a single sentence before utilizing partisan politics in his own defense to the very end of the letter. The list of what “I” and “we” have accomplished is, for those who have not seen it, the very list the cited March 20th budget presentation noted as insufficient or suspect. The tone of the letter makes me wonder if the legislator’s promise that “I am sending a copy of this letter to all Superintendents in our region” is influenced by his inability to send a copy to the Superintendent’s mother.
Further, while attacking the Senate Budget Resolution, you make no reference to the Senate’s proposal for $145 million in flexible Pre·K funding, which is earmarked for districts outside of New York City, as opposed to Governor Cuomo’s proposal for $100 million in Pre-K funding for the entire state, including New York City.
At any rate, the response of the Superintendent, being the one actually in contact with the child-victims of the proposed budget, begins by schooling the legislator about the limits of the accomplishments he had proudly listed, comparing them to the better efforts of others. He then reminds the legislator of the particular needs of his own district, an urban one whose votes usually go to the party opposing that of the legislator, which is probably the thorn in this political paw.
The Senate budget resolution added $217 million in school aid, while the Assembly added $378 million. Clearly the additional $161 million in the Assembly resolution is of significant benefit to our schools. While the Senate favored GEA restoration and the Assembly emphasized foundation aid, greater school aid is the bottom line. I wish to remind you that last year GEA restoration was substantially manipulated as there were 11 different formulas used to restore GEA. The end result is that the Assembly budget resolution was inadequate and the Senate budget resolution was even more inadequate.
Your budget bill included a tax credit that would primarily benefit private and charter schools in the amounts of $150 million this year and $675 million over the next three years. This is all money that could and should have gone to public school aid.
I would also like to remind you of some real facts:
- New York State has one of the worst records on equity of education funds in the country.
- Five school districts (10%) of the most underfunded school districts in New York State reside in your voting district.
- The Middletown City School District will get less or just ab9ut the same State aid for general education as we did in 2010, even though we have had an increase of almost 500 more students since 2010.
- As was described to you during our recent visit, the Middletown School District actually has a per pupil expenditure that is LESS than the State average, as well as the average for districts similar in size and demographics.
So, on paper we have an unbalanced sort of street fight. On one side, an educated man who is an educator. On the other, a political man who is a politician, a word worth looking up.
If representation means standing in for others, and doing anything for others implies service, how can so many representatives in government seem to exist to serve themselves, if not only, then at least first? That’s a question we would do well to ask more often.
But let’s not stop there. Let’s not stop until we can say, in any crisis, in whatever we do for a living, in however we live our lives, “My name used to be Me. But now, it’s You.”