Gov. David Paterson put it on the line yesterday before a rare speech to a joint session of the state legislature (which never occurs during the year beyond the state of the state address in January).
"We're running out of cash," he said.
Keep in mind that just seven months ago, the legislature raised taxes by billions of dollars -- the largest series of tax hikes in modern state history; and received billions more in federal Stimulus money from the ARRA, courtesy of Congress and President Obama. The legislature, however, did not also reduce spending. They raised it with the additional money. With the lousy economy, especially in New York, much of the higher tax revenue has failed to materialize.
The Governor last month proposed to cut the mid-year deficit by more than $3 billion, including nearly $700 million from school districts. The last time a mid-year school aid cut was adopted was 19 years ago.
The New York Charter Schools Association came out against this mid-year education cut, and presented testimony at last week's public hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. NYCSA deems such mid-year cuts as unfair to school districts who take a series of actions following enactment of the state budget containing their respective aid figures for the year. All but the big five urban districts have residents vote on their school budgets in May, and subsequently levy the property tax rate. For the state to pull back those promised funds a couple of months later is disruptive to staff and programming that was set at the beginning of the year.
Charter schools know the feeling. They were told in February they would receive formula increases based on school district operations spending fueled by CFE-induced school aid increases. Instead, charters got their formula cut, resulting in $50 million lost. (More on this later.)
Budget Cut Omens
It is highly unlikely the legislature will act on any education cuts -- for now, no matter the admonitions from the Governor. The votes, particularly in the Senate, are not there. The 150-member Assembly has the votes since the Democrats with their 70 percent majority could muster 76 votes while allowing their most objectionable or marginal legislators a pass. By contrast, the Senate Democrats have the narrowest of majorities and have no such luxury. If the Senate takes no action, the Assembly understandably will not bother since it accomplishes nothing.
The reckoning will come later. Regardless of whether the legislature cuts spending today, Gov. Paterson in January will propose a state budget for 2010-11 that will cut back on growth in school aid and health care spending. The only question is by how much. He'll not have much of a choice. As Willie Sutton once said about why he robbed banks: that's where the money is.
for The Chalkboard
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.