The state Board of Regents this week proposed a $1.94 billion increase in school aid for the 2008-09 fiscal year which, if adopted, would bring total school aid to more than $20 billion a year for the first time. That’s all well and good, but is it going to solve the problem?
The push is on to provide more state aid for schools, especially urban districts that are having trouble raising student test scores to acceptable levels.
The state Board of Regents this week proposed a $1.94 billion increase in school aid for the 2008-09 fiscal year which, if adopted, would bring total school aid to more than $20 billion a year for the first time.
That’s all well and good, but is it going to solve the problem?
Throwing money at a problem is a favorite tactic of bureaucrats. It’s designed to let the common folk know that a) the people in Albany realize there’s a problem and b) they’re doing something about it.
The trouble is that the money they’re throwing is not theirs. It’s yours.
We urge legislators and the governor to stop, take a deep breath and investigate how that kind of money will be spent. Will it pay for more teachers or just give raises to the current ones? Will it expand programs that have already proven effective or pay for new experiments in education, so many of which have proven to be failures and colossal wastes of tax dollars?
You can be sure that every vested interest and everyone with a crackpot educational theory will be there with a hand out, looking for a piece of that governmental pot of gold.
Complicating the issue: Earlier this year, the Spitzer administration warned that declining revenues will make the 2008-09 state budget now being crafted difficult because of a projected $3.6 billion deficit and Spitzer’s promise of no tax increases.
So while the proposal is to raise educational aid, the cash might not be available once the governor draws up the next state budget.
A former U.S. Senate minority leader, Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., has been quoted as saying, "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking real money."
There is debate whether Dirksen actually uttered that exact phrase, but there’s little doubt that he believed in the theory behind it: When you start treating billions of dollars like pocket change, it can become a significant burden on the taxpayers.
If spending those extra billions means having a good shot at improving students’ performance and thereby improving their lives, the expense might be worth it. But if it’s just throwing that money at the problem with little knowledge that it will do any good, the state might want to reconsider.
After all, a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money. Your money.
-- Niagara Gazette