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Cuomo, speaking after a budget meeting with legislative leaders, was asked about warnings by schools and their advocates, who say teachers will be laid off, programs will be cut, and children will suffer. The comments incensed the governor, who says schools, who have received record funding increases in recent years, can manage the cuts through greater efficiencies and by cutting administrative salaries.
“Reduce the waste, reduce the fraud, reduce the abuse,” said Cuomo, who said as Attorney General for four years, he discovered plenty of “waste” in school systems, including pension double dipping and abuse in procurement contracts.
And Cuomo accused school districts, teachers unions and advocacy groups, of playing politics and using children as “pawns”.
“It’s a threat, it’s a game,” said Cuomo. “They want to oppose the cuts politically, so what do they say? ‘I’m going to hurt your child’”.
Senate and Assembly leaders, who are seeking to restore a small portion of the $1.5 billion dollars in school aid cuts, did not disagree with Cuomo’s accusations. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says schools superintendents should probably earn less money.
“When you have superintendents going out with pensions over $300,000, $350,000, to me that’s abuse,” Skelos said. “That’s unconscionable.”
Senator Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, says some Long Island schools, as well as schools in upstate rural areas, have been shortchanged, and that needs to be remedied.
Billy Easton is with Alliance for Quality Education, a group that advocates for more funding for schools, says it’s the governor who is playing politics.
“He’s the one making robocalls into people’s homes, he’s the one who’s got the millionaire’s committee associated with him that’s sending distorted mailers going out to people’s homes,” said Easton.
The state Democratic Party has financed robocalls featuring a message from Governor Cuomo promoting his budget cuts, which have gone out to many New York households. The Committee to Save New York, a group made up of business and real estate industry leaders, has raised millions of dollars to support Cuomo’s fiscally austere spending plan, and has been running radio and television ads backing the
“The goal of his allies is to cut school funding and provide tax cuts for millionaires,” said Easton. “His budget will hurt kids.”
AQE backs extending an income tax surcharge on millionaires. The proposal is in the Assembly Democrats budget plan, but the Senate and Governor Cuomo have rejected it.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli bolstered some of the governor’s claims. In a report issued Thursday, the Comptroller finds most school districts could manage the proposed cuts for this year anyway.
“It’s important to point out that for most of those districts the various reserves that they have would be depleted within one school year,” DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli says there are disparities around the state, and that schools in the central part of the state are the least prepared to weather the cuts, with 100 out of around 700 school districts lacking the reserves to finance even one year’s worth of reductions.
Cuomo, in a statement, welcomed the Comptroller’s report saying that if schools are willing to renegotiate salaries and benefits with teachers, they would likely be able to absorb the cuts without harming school children.