Gov. George E. Pataki tests his presidential ambitions today in Iowa, where a group of parents from public schools in New York State plans to greet him with signs protesting his administration's education funding policies.
"I don't know if it's about embarrassing him. It's about holding him accountable," said Billy Easton, director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide group pressing Pataki to resolve a long-standing court fight over public school aid.
"He's feeling the waters in Iowa, and those folks out there deserve to know his full record," said Easton, whose group includes the Buffalo Teachers Federation along with parent organizations and church groups.
Earlier this summer, the governor announced he will not seek re-election next year. Since then, he has waged a not-so-quiet campaign to determine whether a liberal-to-moderate Republican from New York State has a place in the 2008 presidential race. Today, in his latest outreach to Iowa Republicans, he will address a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Cedar Rapids.
Later this week, he is scheduled to leave on what is being billed as a weeklong trade mission to China.
Education groups are increasing pressure on Pataki to end the legal dispute with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a group that sued the state a decade ago, alleging inadequate funding levels for New York City schools. The state's highest court subsequently ruled the state was not providing those schools the means to ensure a "sound, basic education."
Last winter, a judge put the state's price tag for complying with the ruling at an additional $14.1 billion over five years. The governor appealed that award.
"No governor has fought harder for New York's children than Gov. Pataki," said Michael Marr, a Pataki spokesman, who maintained that the state's per-pupil expenditure of $12,000 is the highest in the nation.