Last week, Governor Cuomo unveiled his 2013-14 budget. He proposed to increase school aid statewide by 3 percent while keeping overall state spending growth under 2 percent.
On Long Island, most schools would reap the benefits of Cuomo’s budget, as school aid would increase 2.77 percent.
Yet somehow, because of antiquated formulas developed and used by bureaucrats in Albany, one school district is seeing its aid cut by 7 percent, more than any other district on Long Island. This district is Island Park, my hometown, a village that was all but destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Thankfully, our local representatives, the people we elected, are on our side, fighting for us. County Legislator Denise Ford, a Republican from Long Beach, was the first to recognize the gross inequity. She was able to get State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, to commit to helping in Albany. Skelos joined with his counterpart in the State Assembly, Democrat Harvey Weisenberg, also from Long Beach, to ensure that during our time of need, our funding will not be cut.
As you know, the hurricane devastated many schools on the South Shore. Many school buildings are still not functional. Even where they are operational, in many cases, children are being pushed into overcrowded classrooms in order to compensate for the buildings that can no longer be used.
When you see that many schools in areas with poverty rates of around 40 percent, similar to Island Park, are receiving 8 percent increases in aid, you start to question the system. In fact, no other district even comes close to the 7 percent loss Island Park is facing.
For the past five years, many of our school districts have been forced to cut staff, programs and services. With any additional cuts in funding, schools in desperate situations will have to find a way to sever even more staff, programs and services.
I invite the bureaucrats in Albany to visit Island Park, where 80 percent of the homes fell victim to Sandy. Approximately 1,000 homes lost their first-floor living space.