When and where will the buck stop?

The New York Times editorial page has been a fairly consistent supporter of education reform over the last ten years, including a courageous and early backing of No Child Left Behind.? But it seems to reveal a blind spot about money in its criticism of Andrew Cuomo's proposal to cap New York State property taxes, calling the new governor's suggestion ?a ploy? and ?a charade.?

In fact, the State's GOP-controlled senate, after just an hour of deliberation, passed the cap legislation yesterday by a wide margin, 45 to 17.? (Thirteen Democrats voted with the majority.) ?Cuomo releases his state budget today, which everyone suspects will slash state aid to education, according to some politicos, by up to five percent.

A pro-cap vote by the state's Assembly, still controlled by Democrats, is not a slam dunk, but why does the Times call the tax cap a ploy?? As I read the editorial, it doesn't like the fact that?the legislation requires a 60 percent majority by local voters to increase the local tax by more than 2 percent. ?That would give people who oppose school spending more voting power than people who support it.? reasons the Times, which goes on to complain that the bill ?would also do away with the traditional school budget vote and require districts to simply ask voters to support a tax increase.?

The Times conveniently forgets that New York school?budget votes are already a charade.? Currently, even if local voters vote No on their budgets, a state law imposes increases on them, like it or not. (People wonder why turnout on these elections averages less than 15 percent.) ?The 60 percent rule simply gives local voters some say over budget matters long ago taken away from them.

The Times correctly points out that New York needs to reform its health care, pensions and debt servicing for education financing.? But holding tax relief for recession-ravaged citizens hostage to those issues is not the answer.

Besides, it's time for New York educators to focus, for a change, on the business of writing, teaching, and testing good and rigorous curriculum for their students.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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