[This Commentary originally appeared in the April 27, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
Dear Governor Cuomo:
HONEOYE FALLS – Wednesday, April 18, 1989 (5:30am). Despite accidentally erasing the final two pages from the computer an hour earlier, a couple of exhausted devotees put the April 20th edition of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima SENTINEL to bed. Once again, the desire to serve the public call causes another sleepless night, but knowing the importance a hometown newspaper has to a growing and thriving community provides enough satisfaction for the fatigued publishers.
ALBANY – Wednesday, April 18, 1989 (5:30am). Despite the fact the fiscal year began on April 1, the entire assembly of New York State legislators finally approve the State’s 1989 budget. Once again, the postponement of their duty to the electorate leads to yet another late night, but knowing one could sleep-in accommodates the whims of those (still) present.
MENDON – Wednesday, April 18, 1989 (6:30am). A not-as-tired-as-he-should-be office-bound laborer exits the shower and prepares to shave as the radio news announcer tells of the previous “night’s” exploits in Albany, “Wow,” thinks the vigorous young man, “Somebody else actually stayed up as long as I did. I wonder what drove them to finish their job in a whole night?”
RT. 65 – Wednesday, April 18, 1989 (6:30pm). The now weary worker, having just cheerfully greeted his friends at Rotary and currently on his way to the Simon School and Finance class, catches the headline on the evening paper he has just picked up. What he reads energizes his expended body with potent verve…
It just doesn’t make sense. I try to look at these things with a sense of fairness and reluctant realization. I understand the State of New York has a pecuniary problem. I believe you and I am very sympathetic to your dire concerns when you say our State verges on a $2 billion deficit. I may not know all the details, but I grasp the import of the potential economic calamity. I also willingly accept the need for personal sacrifice – as long as the costs are shared equally.
Fairness and honesty. Honesty and fairness. That, along with a very sense of community, is all one can expect from elected officials. Our democratic process enables us to review our chosen administrators only every so often. This limits our ability to rate them. I feel, though, the citizen has an active responsibility to supply his government with testimony whenever the politician begins to lose intimacy with the public’s passions.
It is in such observance, and on the unsolicited behalf of my community, that I am writing you. I am of course very concerned about New York’s fiscal state. I see our legislative and executive bodies permitting the continuation of a nightmarish infrastructure which dissuades businesses, jobs and people from staking their future in New York State. I am an earnest supported of my community, my State. Being young, I do not wish to see New York dissolve into an uninspired mess. I wish to see continued vitality in all facets of our citizenry.
We must emphasize the future, with all its innovativeness and creativity. Nowhere is this most needed than in our communities’ schools. The young represent not only the best source for educated and competent employees (the greatest asset any firm can ask for), but they also offer the finest opportunity to cultivate enterprising and resourceful employers (the greatest asset any community can ask for). Both of these hopes are either realized or dashed during a youngster’s formative years. To insure the fulfillment of these aspirations, we must not disregard the weight of public schooling.
The report of the meager budgetary allocations to our schools frightens me. The universal public good demands education be the last area subjected to austere measures. (Maybe government limousines can be the first?) Even when events require public school systems to suffer, I can only think the fairest method entails cutting the same percentage share from each district.
In Monroe County alone, 1989 New York State school district assessments range from a 22.58% increase to a 0.71% decrease. The City of Rochester School District, by far the largest benefactor of state money, received a substantial 8.6% increase. My own community’s school district – Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District –suffered a 0.50% cut in state aid. (And I don’t think accounting shenanigans like not including reimbursable expenses changes my point.)
What’s going on?
Is this disparity fair? Over the past three years, the HFL Central School District has witnessed an enrollment increase of about 3% while the City of Rochester School District saw itself lose nearly 2% of its students. In light of the enrollment facts, does it make sense to you that HFLCSD lose State aid while City Schools gained? Can you understand how this inequality can be condoned?
Comparing the raw numbers is quite different than looking solely at the percentages, so let’s review the naked data. City Schools, with $114, 687,982 budgeted to them, have 31, 103 enrolled students (as of 9/88) which comes to $3,687 per student. HFLCSD, with $5,425,857 of 1989’s New York State budget, has 1, 957 students (as of 9/88) or $2,772 per student.
Why are City students worth 33% ($915) more than HFLCSD students?
Now, I am not suggesting the City of Rochester School District has received too much money. In fact, having served on the Advisory Board for the City’s Franklin School Business Magnet, I wholeheartedly applaud any effort to revitalize the City’s schools. Nor do I contend the State should fully fund public schools (the community must realize a portion of the burden).
Rather, I and my neighbors, who I encourage to also write letters to you, have the inherent obligation to bring into question New York State’s apparent lack of attention to the Honeoye-Falls Lima Central School District. We are a growing community and proud of our school’s achievements. It is irresponsible to jeopardize that level of excellence, particularly in the face of increased demands our area’s growth will have on HFLCSD. Can you PLEASE explain to me, and the readers of our hometown newspaper, why the seeming disregard to our expanding school system is allowed to exist and it you will tolerate the neglect to continue?
Publisher, Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima SENTINEL
Last Week #4: Paper Airplanes: Pure Americana (originally published April 20, 1989)
Next Week #6: Lemonade, Minimum Wage and Daddy’s Tough Decision (originally published May 4, 1989)
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]