Education advocates say spending cuts would be devastating – and so would reductions in teacher pay, our Glenn Blain reports from the State Capitol.
Flanked by more than a dozen lawmakers – most of them Assembly Democrats – the Alliance for Quality Education’s Billy Easton held a press conference this morning to release a study showing, among other things, that the state’s better performing schools spent $1,712 per pupil than schools classified by the state as needing improvement.
The message from Easton and the lawmakers was simple: The massive education cuts expected in Gov. Cuomo’s budget would be devastating, especially to schools in poor areas, and the state should not think of cutting school funding without first renewing the so-called "millionaires’ tax."
“This year, that alone is not going to solve the state’s fiscal crisis, but that’s a billion dollars that could go to closing this gap,” Easton said. “That’s a billion dollars that we believe, before a single dollar should be considered to be cut from our children’s education, that the state should say we want to keep that money coming in.”
The tax, which impacts individuals earning over $200,000 a year, is set to expire at the end of 2011. Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Senate’s GOP majority oppose its renewal.
While AQE -- which is backed financially by the state’s powerful teachers unions -- wants high-income earners to continue to pay the tax, it does not believe, according to Easton, that teachers should also be asked to sacrifice when it comes to their pay.
“It is kind of stylish to say, 'Well, the way we can fix our schools is by cutting teachers' compensation,'” Easton said when asked if teachers should be aside to share the pain of the fiscal crisis. “But then it is like we have to attract the very best teachers and keep them and we should reward them more if they are doing well.”
Easton added: “How are we going to keep our best teachers, especially in our neediest schools, if we start cutting their pay? If we start eliminating their benefits?”