Dear Mr. Patterson: Our Students Are Not a Special Interest Group

Governor Patterson has unilaterally decided to withhold funding for New York’s public schools, despite the legislature’s passage of a deficit reduction plan. This results in an effective mid-year cut to school districts that are already hemorrhaging from last year’s trimming. I understand that New York is in the middle of a very large financial crisis, and that schools have not always been paradigms of fiscal responsibility, but we get the point. My school is being responsible as I am sure many other schools in the state are, cutting down on supplies, cutting staff, cutting extra curricular activities, shortening sports seasons, canceling conferences and virtually every form of professional development that is not free.

The cuts hurt. But what hurts more is when the governor lists schools as a powerful special interest looking to derail any fiscal reform efforts, as if schools are in the middle of some ponzi scheme to waste the states money. NEW YORK’S KIDS ARE NOT SPECIAL INTERESTS, but they should be of special interest to the state. It is not the students’ fault that a dysfunctional state government squabbled for years while the money ran out but they are the ones who have to play less games, or hope that the school musical might be back next year if the district can scrounge up some money. Continuing to cannibalize the public school system is short sighted and the day will arrive down the road when the state will reap what it has sewn.

I grew up in this state and have lived here my whole life, but I am encouraging my students to move away from here as I am certain other educators across the state are doing. That causes me great sadness, as does everything in New York politics these days.

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