FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 30, 2004
STATEMENT BY MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE PANEL’S RECOMMENDATION IN THE CAMPAIGN FOR FISCAL EQUITY LITIGATION
"Ensuring that every public school student has the opportunity to get a high-quality and meaningful education has been one of our administration's top priorities, which makes the opinion of the Special Referee Panel especially gratifying. It reaffirms the importance of education, recognizes the longstanding need for improvement in our City's schools and finds that our schools additionally need $5.6 billion annually, plus $9.2 billion in capital funds. The decision also acknowledges that improvement in the schools cannot be solved by money alone but also requires the right plans and the right leadership.
"The decision finds that the changes Chancellor Klein and I have begun to implement, including our proposed Plan on how to spend the additional monies called for by the CFE decision, are leading the schools toward the goal of providing each student with the opportunity for a sound basic education. As the Panel noted, our reforms and CFE plan were developed with significant input from teachers, principals, parents and community leaders. It includes four major initiatives: the establishment of better training, recruitment, and retention of staff, including incentive and merit pay; early childhood education (universal pre-K) and early grade intervention programs; secondary school reform, including creating smaller schools; and providing additional support for special education students and English Language Learners.
"I am very pleased that the Referees found that the City's accountability standards are adequate. The Referees properly recognized that the imposition of additional layers of bureaucracy are simply unnecessary, and would impair the ability of the Chancellor to use additional funds in the most efficient way to rapidly improve the education of our children. Simply put, additional regulations would be a step backwards, towards the days where everyone was in charge but no one was accountable. Our children paid a terrible price for that dysfunction. The Mayoral control that the State Legislature put in place at my urging is more than sufficient to assure the public that the additional funds will be well spent.
"The Special Referees reached the same conclusion that virtually every distinguished analysis has: that the City's schools have been drastically shortchanged by Albany for decades by a system that disregards the needs of its school children when it calculates the amount of State assistance the City receives. The grievous wrong imposed on the City's school children resulted from the State's failures; it must be remedied by all the State's taxpayers.
"As the Panel recognized by quoting from the conclusion of the Citizens Budget Commission report, the City already suffers from a 'high local tax burden' and that mandated additional education expenditures would 'force cuts for necessary services other than education or force tax increases that harm the City's economic viability.'
"We already have a projected $3 billion deficit for the next Fiscal Year as a result of uncontrollable, mandated expenses such as Medicaid, health care and pension costs. For the City to fund even a portion of this $5.63 billion would require us to cut after-school programs, close libraries and make severe cuts to essential City services, even in the area of public safety. Such actions would harm the very children this lawsuit is designed to help.
"I look forward to working with Governor Pataki, Speaker Silver, Senator Bruno, and all the members of the Legislature to ensure that our schools get the funds they deserve."
Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson (212) 788-2958