Byron Brown: Thats a good question. It may, it may not. The Court of Appeals of New York State has imposed a July 30 deadline for the state through the legislature and the governor to take action. Now, if we dont act by that July 30th deadline, the court could appoint a special master whose job it would be to determine how the under funding of the New York City schools would be addressed. It would be only the New York City schools that would be addressed. That is because those parents and those educational advocates in that community were the only ones who filed the lawsuit. What many of us in the State Legislature would like to see happen is that we address the under funding of school districts all across the state. If we do that and if we take action before July 30, then we could see millions more dollars for the Buffalo public schools. We could see more money for the public school systems in Niagara Falls, Grand Island, the City of Tonawanda, and many other districts across the state that are under funded.
Alt: Is the Legislature going to reconvene before July 31?
Byron Brown: Well, thats the big question. Thats one of the reasons why all of your listeners should call the governor, the Senate leader, and the Assembly leader, to say that the legislature needs to be reconvened. Prior to the legislators' leaving Albany last week, a six-week budget extender was passed. That essentially means that the legislature does not have to return to Albany until after six weeks. I voted against that six-week budget extender because I thought it was improper. I thought that it was a further sign that we werent getting our job done, that we werent doing the work that we were supposed to do, and I thought it sent absolutely the wrong message to the citizens and residents and taxpayers of New York State.
Alt: Is this breaking down along partisan issues? The Republicans pushing one agenda and the Democrats pushing another?
Byron Brown: Its somewhat partisan. Democrats, by and large, often push for more money for education. The Republicans generally dont feel as much money is needed for education. There are some Republican who, like Democrats, are champions of education, though. So I dont want to lump every single Republican into that category, but, by and large the leadership, the governor and the Senate leader, dont seem to think that theres as much money as required to address the under funding of school districts across the State. Now the interesting thing is that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Adequacy study, which was a study done by the top educational experts in the country, determined that 580 of the nearly 700 districts in New York State are not properly funded.
Alt: So its widespread and its not just focusing on urban school districts.
Byron Brown: No, it is very widespread. Its rural and some suburban school districts for that matter that are under funded.
Alt: So if this master is appointed, and rumor has it that it could very well be Mario Cuomo, can't he create a global formula? Would he be limited to just New York City?
Byron Brown: He would be limited to focusing on the court decision, which is based solely on the needs of New York City schools. That would be absolutely disastrous for Buffalo and other school districts across the state that have proven to be under funded as well.
Alt: Wouldnt that open up a whole plethora of lawsuits from Buffalo, from Rochester?
Byron Brown: Thats the belief. If this went forward with a special master only addressing the NYC funding issues, school districts that are under funded all across the state would probably bring their own suits. The effect of doing that would probably delay action, not only in New York City, but also for school districts across the state. It would be absolutely disastrous for the children of New York.
So, unless they resolve this in a global way, the result will be a long delay in getting any serious fiscal reform in the educational system. Thats what most people believe. WHLD 1270 AM Tuesday 1-3pm and Fridays 10-12noon
Alt: Okay, lets talk about whats been in the news lately. Of course, the state has failed to come up with a budget once again. Whats going on?
Byron Brown: You know what? I share the frustration of the public. Its a terrible process, clearly after twenty years of late budgets. The way that we do our business in New York State is not working, and we need to change this broken system. We put so much power in the hands of three people, that they dont want to change the system. Im talking about the governor, the leader of the Senate and the leader of the Assembly.
The big issue that really broke down the budget talks is school aid reform. As you know, there was a lawsuit in New York City. The campaign for fiscal equity that proved that the New York City public schools were under funded. The problem is that everybody has a different formula for how to address that under funding. The court has mandated that the state address this under funding, of at least the New York City public schools. The Senate has a plan, the Assembly has a plan, and the governor has a plan. The leaders dont want to sit in a room long enough to come out with the same plan so that we can agree and get to the important business of passing the $100 billion-plus state budget.