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Editorial 2/21/2012
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School Closings
presented by Peter Kohler

Can we afford to close schools? Can we afford not to?

It’s a debate raging all over Long Island, dividing opinion in West Islip where two elementary schools are set to close.

“I’m hoping they do what’s right and what’s best for the kids and if it means closing some schools and consolidating them into others, then so be it,” said West Islip parent Robert Marino.

But another parent, Angela Messina, said, “I pay $28,000 in taxes. It shouldn’t be that my school is probably one of the schools closing. It’s just not right.”

From Baldwin to North Bellmore, from West Islip to Smithtown, parents are turning out to question plans to close elementary schools deemed underutilized due to declining student enrollment, a cost squeeze compounded by a new state law capping property tax increases at 2 percent.

By one measure, elementary school enrollment in Nassau County declined 11 percent in eleven years. By another, Long Island school enrollment declined by over 6 percent in five years. Consequently, schools are closing. And recent census data suggest that the number of young children preparing for school on Long Island continues to decline.

Yet, despite years of declining enrollments, the Empire State Center reports, school districts throughout the state continued to add teaching staff and administrators. Obviously this can’t go on, and it hasn’t. During the last school year, some 1,400 positions were eliminated at Long Island schools.

While it is regrettable that many school districts must downsize, don’t blame tax caps. Instead, give the state’s tax cap law credit for helping Long Island school districts face a painful reality.

Dave Gould
Lynbrook, NY
School districts have an obligation to keep costs down for all the taxpayers—including those of us who have no children, yet pay thousands of dollars in school taxes. So if this means closing a school then so be it. Forty years ago, the Long Island school district I attended closed one of its elementary schools due to declining enrollment following its peak in the 1960s. It was inconvenient for a year with the other schools being overcrowded but we survived just fine. And there was no tax cap back then. You will survive just fine.
Old Westbury, NY
It’s the only salvation for Long Island. Consolidation and elimination. While we are at it, we should consolidate Nassau and Suffolk counties as well. A unified Long Island would certainly put us back in the black and keep our children from leaving the island due to the cost of living here!
A Research Bulletin from the Empire Center for New York State Policy
May 20, 2011
Imagine, it’s 2012, and you are voting again on school spending. That election could bring a revolution, if the state Assembly approves Governor Cuomo’s legislation to cap increases in property taxes at 2 percent, as already approved by the state Senate. First, you wouldn’t vote on a school budget. Instead, voters would decide whether to approve a school district’s tax levy.
May 3, 2011
One of the most difficult questions facing legislators as they return to Albany is whether to cap increases in local property taxes at 2 percent. Tax caps have been endorsed by Governor Cuomo, and approved by the State Senate, but not by the State Assembly.
Feb. 15, 2011
It didn’t take long for Governor Cuomo’s proposal to cut $1.5 billion in school aid to bring threats of massive teacher layoffs on Long Island. Last week Sachem, one of Long Island’s largest districts, notified 375 teachers that they could face layoffs. The district had learned it could lose $16 million in state aid…
Feb. 1, 2011
Cablevision missed an opportunity to join in an important regional dialogue about the implementation of a property tax cap that makes sense. Instead, their recent editorial equated the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association’s recommendations for the design of a more sensitive tax cap to advocating for taxpayer torment. Long Island taxpayers have a lot to lose. A flawed cap will lead to a deterioration of public education…
Jan. 18, 2011
Now that Governor Cuomo has become a champion for capping local property taxes, he has apparently enlisted some surprising converts, among them some Long Island school superintendents. But don’t be fooled. When Long Island school superintendents embrace tax caps, it’s only part of a strategy to fill them with holes—loopholes…
Jan. 7, 2011
He called it a time of crisis. In his state of the state message, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of the need for radical reform, offering the perspective of crisis transformed into opportunity: “This is a time of crisis for our state,” he said, “a time when we must transform our government to once again become the progressive capital of the nation and to seize the moment of opportunity that is before us…”