It deeply offends me that our Democratic Governor, David Paterson continues to ignore sound alternatives addressing New York State's deficits. Instead, his proposed budget cuts slash $686 million from public education.
His cuts include $223 million from New York City's schools. Fifty-one percent of the cuts target high poverty school districts and will impact the most vulnerable and neediest students.
At this point, mid-year cuts would lead to larger class sizes, fewer arts programs and eliminate important services and education programs.
These cuts would disproportionately hurt Black and Hispanic students. It would deprive them of class materials and many other education resources. Among Black and Hispanic students, the drop-out rate continues to grow. Patterson's cuts will make matters worse.
Patterson proposes cutting millions of dollars from transitional bilingual and dual language student programs. These cuts would make it more difficult for bilingual students to assimilate into the culture and foster achievement gaps with traditional students.
We should not ignore the current fiscal crisis facing New York. However, Black and Hispanic students cannot disproportionately bear the burden of the crisis. The Governor must stop trying to balance the budget on their backs and must weigh fiscally sound alternatives that I proposed.
For example my prescription drug bill, allowing us to purchase prescription drugs at much lower prices from Canadian pharmaceutical companies, would save the State millions of dollars. I also sponsored a bill that would vastly improve the State's efficiency in collecting state sales taxes from credit companies. We can also tap into the state's "Rainy Day" fund.
These alternatives are more preferable than cutting school budgets.
The State's highest court determined that New York has failed its constitutional obligation to provide Black and Hispanic children with a "sound basic education." As a result, in 2007, the legislature approved landmark reforms that shifted more state funding to high poverty school districts. The Governor's proposed budget would be a major obstacle to the legislation.
Quality education strengthens our families, communities, and economy. It is essential to economic recovery and path out of poverty. Therefore, I will block any proposal by the Governor will cut education funds. Black and Hispanic children should not pay the price for the current financial downturn.