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  February 14, 2006

Let Albany Know Schools Matter

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

Over the last four years, we have made great progress in reforming our public school system because teachers, parents, principals and elected officials have joined together to ensure that every child receives a sound education. Unfortunately, our State leaders are now making decisions that jeopardize that progress.

On Monday, I made an announcement that no Mayor wants to make: I told New Yorkers that we will not be able to break ground on a number of important new school projects because of the State’s refusal to comply with a court order mandating a substantial increase in State funding to City schools. The failure by our leaders in Albany to resolve this issue comes at a tremendous cost to New York City’s school children.

Twenty-one new school buildings with 15,000 new seats will now be delayed indefinitely, as well as nearly 40 new science labs, more than 40 new art facilities, nearly 60 new athletic facilities, 15 new libraries, nearly 20 technology upgrades, and almost 20 new heating systems. We had planned to start every one of these projects this year with money that the State is legally obligated to pay us.

We are asking for what legally belongs to our children. In 1993, a group of parents and advocates called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity sued the State on the grounds that its funding formulas short-changed City schools. In 2003, the courts ruled in the City’s favor and ordered Albany to finally meet its obligations. But more than two years have now passed and the City has still not received any additional State funding for school construction and repair. That’s not just a bitter pill we must swallow today, but a direct blow to our future.

The City has moved forward on its historic school reforms, even without this State funding. When I came into office we increased our contribution to the schools’ capital budget by $2 billion – and maintained that commitment through a recession and a fiscal crisis. Last year, as we waited for the billions that we are owed by the State, we advanced $1.3 billion of City funding to keep badly needed projects afloat. But this year, we cannot afford to continue covering for the state – particularly when we already send $11 billion more in taxes to Albany each year than we get back in State services.

What will it take for our leaders in Albany to live up to their responsibility? They must know that New Yorkers – all of us – are determined to hold them accountable. And how do we show them that?

Call your Assemblyperson. Call your State Senator. Call the Governor’s Office. (And if you need their phone numbers, just call 3-1-1.)

Tell them, “Enough is enough!” Enough excuses. Enough politics. Enough hoping we’ll go away. We’re not going away. The future of our children is too important.

New Yorkers are all in this together, and our unity on this issue can be our biggest strength. Over the past four years, we’ve improved the educational system by bringing accountability to the schools – and to City government. The days of tolerating failure are over. But now, we also have to hold the State accountable and not let it off the hook for the funds that rightfully belong to our children. So make your voice heard – and help us create the first-rate school system our children need and deserve.