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Governor's budget proposal hurts Buffalo schools

The Buffalo Teachers Federation recently pointed out the disparities in state funding that continue to damage Buffalo's public schools and deny Buffalo's children their right to full educational opportunity.

Buffalo is not alone. Every day, in urban and rural school districts across New York State, students are being shortchanged by a school aid formula that is both unfair and irresponsible. This is a statewide problem that needs a statewide solution.

The state's highest court has ruled that the school aid formula is unconstitutional. For the past year, tens of thousands of young students have been waiting for the governor and the State Legislature to implement the court's decision. Of course, for the past 12 years, the case -- the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit -- has been slogging slowly through appeal after appeal by the governor.

Unfortunately, the governor has ignored the court's ruling, and, to make matters worse, he has crafted a misguided voucher proposal that would drain hundreds of millions of dollars away from public education. Vouchers, in any shape or form, are bad education policy and bad public policy.

The governor estimates that his plan for tuition tax credits -- vouchers -- would cost the state about $400 million. All that money won't put one new teacher in a Buffalo school. It won't buy a single computer for a school library. It won't buy any new textbooks. It won't fix any out-of-date high school science labs.

At the same time that he's disregarding the court's decision, the governor wants to spend $400 million on a voucher plan that won't do a single thing to improve education for our state's children. If this isn't contempt of court, it is most certainly contempt of kids.

The governor's voucher proposal is combined with a proposal to expand the number of charter schools in the state to 250. A recent University of Illinois study found that charter schools don't quite measure up to public school performance.

But despite concerns about charters' mixed academic success and the draining of resources from public schools without local taxpayer input, the governor presses on. This is a dangerous assault that will make it harder for children to meet high state standards and drive local property taxes in every school district even higher.

Buffalo doesn't need this. The money that the governor wants to spend on vouchers and charters could go a long way toward helping Buffalo's public schools, from hiring back laid-off teachers to making classrooms less crowded.

Pushing vouchers and charters may help the governor win votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, but here in New York, our mission is a little different. Every parent and every educator in our state -- from Buffalo to Montauk -- wants the same thing: Fair funding for our schools and full opportunity for our students.

Richard C. Iannuzzi is president of New York State United Teachers.

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