Spending Watch


Bulletin #4: May 3, 1999
Education cuts? What education cuts?

One of the pro-spending lobbyists' biggest complaints about Governor Pataki's proposed budget is that it "slashes" education spending. The fact is, of course, that our education spending is already among the very highest in the country, and would jump still further under the Executive Budget.

After record increases for two years in a row, state aid to schools would rise a further $274 million in 1999-2000. Compared to 1994-95, state spending on K-12 would be up $2.2 billion, or 23 percent. That's well above the rate of inflation. This is "slashing" spending? Even the share of overall public-school spending provided by Albany is up sharply, from 39.4 percent three years ago to a projected 45.3 percent this year.

All of this new spending comes on top of school costs that are already extremely high. The National Education Association says per-student spending in New York was $9,812 in 1998. That's fully 50 percent above the national average. And it's far higher than costs in states such as Massachusetts ($7,861 per student), Michigan ($7,673), Illinois ($6,363) and North Carolina ($5,830).

We know high-quality education is possible at far lower costs, even in New York. Many Catholic and other non-public schools do it. So do many public schools in our state, as a study by education expert Dr. David Wiles has shown.

We are improving education. Money isn't the problem.

There is a drive in New York to improve our kids' schools. It's not the result of some costly new program, though.

School districts are working harder than ever before on improving student achievement because the Board of Regents and Education Commissioner Mills are insisting that schools be held accountable for results. School report cards are showing parents and other customers how well their own schools are doing. And, starting this year, high-school students are being required to pass Regents exams in core subjects before graduating. All of this is good news, indeed.

The increases proposed in the Executive Budget will help schools meet rising standards. School boards may need to re-allocate some existing spending, as well (and at $9,812 per student, there should be ample opportunity to do so).

Many years of experience prove that extra dollars won't guarantee our kids a better education. Let's concentrate on what does.