At our schools, they’re cutting to the bone


My wife and I know a successful young couple who live in a spacious Manhattan apartment. They have lots of dining and entertainment options, a doorman and great views of a park. Best of all, they roll out of bed, hop on a subway and they’re at the office in a matter of minutes. They’ve got it made, yet everyone’s debating how long it will be before they move to Long Island.

You guessed it. This dynamic duo now has a newborn, and, as with many young families, conversations turn to where best to raise a family. Of course, they’re dutifully fighting it. Hoboken has a “hip little downtown.” Parts of Brooklyn have a “good vibe,” but ultimately, the conclusion is always the same: growing families need safe communities and good schools.

Education has been part of this equation for as long as I can remember. I’ve known people who paid top dollar for drafty old houses with bad plumbing on busy streets just to get into a particular school district. And background, faith or politics don’t matter; we are united in wanting what’s best for our children. Real estate agents say this is key to Long Island’s robust real estate market. We’re a stone’s throw from Manhattan, and boast some of the best schools in the country. That’s an enviable distinction, but one that could now be in jeopardy.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recently proposed budget contains some controversial changes to state aid formulas that would hurt Long Island schools. For starters, the governor would eliminating 1976’s “hold harmless” provision, which gave schools planning stability by guaranteeing at least the same level of funding year to year. That’s because schools couldn’t fairly be expected to put programs in place one year and then pull the rug out from under children and parents the next. Unfortunately, Hochul’s effort would result in more than $167 million in cuts to 337 districts — more than half of the districts in the state, many of them on Long Island.

She would also change “school aid runs.” So instead of computing for current inflation, Hochul would use an eight-year average, which would reduce school aid by another $245 million. Frankly, I can’t think of a greater accounting end run. Do our school superintendents get to tell labor, vendors or their insurance companies that they won’t pay increased fees, and prefer to pay an “eight-year average”? This is no time for make-believe. If it wouldn’t work in our personal budgets, it won’t work in theirs, either.

Suffice to say, Nassau and Suffolk counties are faced with a combined loss of $75 million. The governor would have you believe that we can just change brands of soap and make those savings, but they’re not cutting fat in Albany, they’re cutting to the bone. These funds pay for things like special education, development programs, music and art — things that make our schools special.

And unlike other parts of the state, where schools get as much as 90 percent of their funding in the form of state aid, some of ours receive as little as 5 percent. That means local taxpayers shoulder as much as 95 percent of the cost. To ask them to pay more is nothing short of government malpractice. And in a $233 billion budget that’s growing by $5.9 billion in state operating funds, savings can certainly be found elsewhere. Hochul plans to spend $2.4 billion on illegal migrants, $275 million on artificial intelligence and even $150 million on swimming pools. Are Long Island students less important?

We are America’s first suburb, with communities that place a high value on family life and safety. We are neighbors who send $15 billion more in taxes to Albany than we get back, and schools are the backbone of our communities. This isn’t Democrat versus Republican, because districts everywhere are getting cut. This is Long Island versus Albany. It’s time to lock arms and voice our opposition.

Jack M. Martins represents the 7th Senate District.