By Dr. Ralph Kerr
At this time of year, as in every year, groups in Albany go through the process of staking out their ground in terms of “financial needs” from the upcoming State Budget. Governor Cuomo’s office has stated there will be a $4.4 billion dollar gap this year between expenditures and revenues. The Comptroller’s Office has indicated the gap may be even larger.
Despite these dire projections educational groups have again ignored these projections and asked for what they describe as absolutely necessary increases to carry out their mandate to educate all children in the State.
The New York State Educational Conference Board, which consists of the New York State United Teachers, NYS PTA, NYS Council of School Superintendents, Conference of Big 5 Schools, School Administrators of NYS, NYS Association of School Business Officials and the NYS School Board Association, have requested a $2 billion increase in State Aid. Given the groups represented, this requested increase should come as no surprise. What they have not paid attention to, however, is the fact that the average cost per student in NYS is already $20,610. This is 87% above the national average of $11,009 per student. Yes, you read that right, 87% higher than the national average.
The NYS Board of Regents, the group responsible for educational policy in the State asked for an increase in State Aid of $1.6 billion.
Lost in these requests is the fact that total aid to education currently totals $60 Billion per year. State and Local Aid to Education has already increased by 31% in the last six years. The State share of education aid represents 30% of the State General Fund operating budget.
In my opinion, taxpayers simply can’t and won’t continue to support increases of this size. Furthermore it may actually be taken as an insult to continue to make these unreasonable requests. Unfortunately I believe it may take a taxpayer revolt of some kind before these groups come to grips with the plight of taxpayers.
Rather than continually asking for unreasonable increases in educational funding schools should begin to control their spending and in many cases spend down their reserves, (rainy day funds) which in many cases are above the legal limit. In my book “Many Options Few Easy, Controlling School Spending” I outline over 100 ways schools could reduce their spending.
These are broken down into Immediate, Intermediate and Long Term possibilities. Here are just a few examples from each group.
- Review future total district enrollment trends, which are downward in most cases and reduce spending accordingly.
- Institute a Vacant Position Analysis. Do all vacated positions need to be filled?
- Eliminate Summer School. Should students who in many cases refuse to take advantage of the regular 183 days of school year instruction be rewarded by having the opportunity to take the same course in 30 days at an added expense to taxpayers?
- Share services, i.e. Business Office, Transportation & Maintenance, Fuel Facilities and Food Services
- Eliminate use of Teaching Assistants and utilize Teacher Aides when necessary. Teaching Assistants are paid much more than Teacher Aides.
- Reduce Professional Staff based on decreasing student enrollment.
- Consolidate school districts. Some states have county wide school systems that provide substantial efficiencies.
- Base all salary increases on performance, not longevity.
- Move to a K-11 System. Eliminating grade 12 will eliminate the duplication of much instruction given in the first year of college and give other students the opportunity to enter the workforce earlier.
As I mentioned these are only 9 of over 100 suggestions I have included in my book, “Many Options, Few Easy, Controlling School Spending.” Between now and January 31 I am offering a Free copy of my book to everyone who requests one. Simply email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your mailing address. The book is also available at Amazon.com