Point/Counterpoint: School aid cuts

Editor’s Note: Evening Sun reporters love to argue. Here, Tyler Murphy and Jeff Genung take opposing sides on the issue of school aid cuts in New York. The sides were chosen arbitrarily and do not necessarily reflect the author’s true viewpoints.

The Executive Budget Proposal, unveiled by Governor David Paterson Jan. 19, calls for $1.1 billion in cuts to schools across New York State as one of the measures necessary to eliminate the state’s $7.4 billion budget deficit. According to preliminary figures, the governor’s plan would mean a loss of more than $4.1 million in total state aid to Chenango’s nine school districts.


All across the land, schools and students are protesting the trend of proposed budget cuts aimed at education. Yet just how drastic are these cuts and what has the taxpayer been getting for their money? Another cry to be heard all across the country is the lack of education the United States is providing. New York spends more money per student than nearly any other state, yet one in four students can’t graduate on time. There are some problems you can’t just throw money at and they get better, and education is one of them. While people dissect the education system for a better way of doing things, our state struggles to keep from going broke – actually we are broke because we owe more than we collect. With taxes rising and cuts or freezes to almost all aspects of the government, why should education be spared and please don’t tell me “it’s for the children.” Our future might rely on the youth, but it’ll also rely on New York not being bankrupt. What kind of future could you expect then? – TDM

You negate your own argument when you decry the poor performance of our educational system on one hand, and swipe away at its resources with the other. The state is in abysmal financial straits; I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will argue that point. I think the real crux of outcry over these proposed cuts isn’t whether the schools can or should prioritize their spending differently, I think it’s that New York State itself should. Why slash at one of our most important enterprises so destructively, when there are countless other ways to cut expenditures? – JMG

My argument doesn’t negate anything, it just points out a flaw in the “spending equals better performance” logic. By that rationale, the more money spent on schools would equal better test scores and graduation rates. If our spending policies have highlighted anything, it’s that they don’t. If they did, New York would have some of the best statistics in the world – we don’t. If pushing large sums of money into a program doesn’t create success, then how can taking a sliver of it away really affect it? If that sliver can better help our youth by stabilizing an economic future, then shouldn’t we save it? – TDM

The governor’s deficit reduction program calls for $686 million in education aid cuts – I’d hardly call that a “sliver.” No one’s arguing that more money means better performance. But to force school districts to deal with this depth of cuts mid-stream is putting an undue burden on our school boards and administrators – not to mention teachers and students. The planning of programming, personnel and expenditures for a school district – even for the relatively smaller ones we have here in Chenango County – is a gargantuan process. To throw that kind of monkey wrench into the system mid-year is disruptive, even destructive. Schools are being forced to make drastic decisions in the short-term with no idea what the long-term effects might be. A better plan would have been to freeze education aid at current levels indefinitely, and let local schools plan accordingly moving forward. – JMG

The total budget of the nine school districts covering Chenango County is roughly $174 million and the governor is asking for a $4.1 million cut. That’s less than a 4 percent reduction from an operating budget that’s more than double the proposed 2010 $81 million budget for Chenango County. I’m not saying we should strip schools of their resources at all, but asking for a reasonable cut in what’s being called the Great Recession is understandable. The Norwich School District alone spends about $37 million a year in taxpayer dollars. Now recall how often you hear of a new multi-million dollar school building projects in the headlines. It seems like out of control spending to me and the reins need to be pulled in. I bet other agencies and businesses facing the downturn are wishing they had the politically provoking banner of “child education” to hide beneath. Schools have had plenty of time and money over the years to prove themselves and now both are in short supply for everyone. Although it might be a tough argument to sell to the public, it’s time to be realistic about education, not popular. – TDM

You’re right, the out of control physical expansion and upgrades of our local schools (some within a handful of years from prior building projects) was certainly exorbitant given the current fiscal climate. And yet, taxpayers bought these projects under the guise of taking advantage of state aid – that mythical “free money” tree that seemed endless. Well now the rug has been pulled out from under us – but unfortunately what most, including you, fail to understand is that these cuts coming down the pike won’t derail building projects – they’ll cut jobs. The billions of dollars we “threw” at facility improvements have already been spent, or are in process and categorized outside this latest wave of cutbacks. Schools will be forced to deal with this in the most expedient way possible – by putting people out of work. Thousands of teachers across the state will be on the unemployment line, and all the good they could have done in those classrooms will be lost. That, truly, is the unkindest cut of all. – JMG

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