April 05, 2006
Broken Promises Leave School Districts Behind
According to a report compiled by the Congressional Research Service, the First Congressional District will fall some $33 million short of anticipated federal school aid this year. The Bush administration's budget represents "the single largest cut to education funding since the Department of Education was founded," rebuked Congressman Tim Bishop, who requested the study.
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According to officials, the government currently funds special education at 18% of the total expenses. The Bush administration had promised a 40% funding level. The shortfall will cost schools in the First Congressional District close to $5 million more than last year, for a whopping total of $28.2 million. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is the mechanism through which special ed is funded.
That's not all. The administration also has shortchanged the promised funding of the No Child Left Behind Act by $800,000 over last year, failing to fund nearly $5 million in expenses.
IDEA and No Child Left Behind are both federally mandated programs, meaning local districts must comply with their stated guidelines whether they receive the money or not. "When funding shortfalls occur, districts are forced to choose between higher taxes or reduced spending in other areas to make up the difference," a press statement from Bishop's office points out. This new set of numbers is not going to come as a big surprise to local districts, Bishop allowed last Friday. Still, promises have been broken, and he predicted, "Next year is going to be worse."
The congressman attributes the chronic underfunding of education to the cumulative impacts of spending $100 billion a year in Iraq combined with "giving $1.5 trillion worth of tax cuts to people who don't need it."
Bishop believes the only way to change the bleak outlook is "if we elect different people, those who don't just say education is a priority" to office. (He is running for re-election this fall.) He predicted that budget resolutions that depict the education funding shortfall will pass "but with no Democratic votes."
On the state level there's room for optimism. On Monday Assemblyman Fred Thiele heralded historic increases to state aid, over a billion dollars more than last year. The state budget, he said, "reflects a substantial commitment by New York State to reduce the crushing burden of property taxes on the home owners of New York State," Thiele said.
In Suffolk County, Thiele reported, state aid has increased about $80 million. Additionally, several East End school districts will be availed of a new program that helps offset the tax roll loss created by land preservation. Riverhead will receive payments for all state land in the district.
The Quogue school district stands to reap the biggest aid increase, an extra $33 plus thousand representing an over 18% increase. Other increases include Remsenburg, 17%; Amagansett and Tuckahoe, 16.5%; Bridgehampton, 12%; East Hampton, 7.6%; Riverhead, 7.5%; Sag Harbor, 6.9%; Hampton Bays, 6.5%; Montauk, 3.7%; Springs, 3.3%; Westhampton Beach, 3.1%; Southampton, 1.8% and East Quogue, 1.6%.