Director of State Operations
State of New York
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Mr. Malatras,
Over the last few months you have communicated with the Chancellor of the Regents, the Commissioner and the Acting Commissioner of the State Department of Education, sharply criticizing policies, demanding responses and directing the Chancellor/Acting Commissioner to “investigate” removing schools from supervision of schools districts and turning them over to “receivers.”
We share your concern with the education of the children of the State of New York; however, we note that the schools that you designate as “failing” schools are also schools in low wealth, high poverty sections of the state. Your just-released report fails to indicate that the schools and school districts highlighted in the report also lead the state in “risk factors,” namely, poverty, unemployment, English language learner, students with disabilities, children in shelters and foster care, single parent households, parent incarcerated, crime data in school catchments areas and other factors.
The Gap Elimination Adjustment and the 2% Property Tax Cap inhibit the ability of school districts to effectively fund schools. The entire school funding system in New York State should be rethought, not slashed.
The purpose of this letter is not to argue the governor’s education policies; the purpose is to question the effectiveness of the governor in addressing the economic issues plaguing too many cities around the state.
The Annual New York State Poverty Report is discouraging,
[Using the following indicators:] child- hood poverty, the gender wage gap, racial economic disparities and living wages: New York has the fourth largest number of people living in poverty, behind only California, Texas and Florida … The gender income gap continues to grow and African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos experience poverty at more than double the rate of white New Yorkers.
Our cities continue to have very high levels of childhood poverty – several more than triple the national poverty rate: Syracuse (51.3%), Rochester (51.1%), Utica (48.5%), Binghamton (47.9%) and Buffalo (46.5%). Statewide, 22.1% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty – nearly a million (935,477) children! Across the state, 54% of children are eligible for free or reduced cost lunch (76% of children in New York City and 40% of children in the rest of the state).
Blaming cities, school districts and teachers for the failures of the governor are unacceptable.
Each year legislators listen to the State of the State message, a long list of promises and priorities, and each year we are disappointed.
The governor has failed to revive the urban and rural areas across the state, jobs continue to erode, childhood poverty numbers grow, tax revenue shrinks, and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been invested have not reversed the economic and social disintegration of too many areas across the state. (See county by county poverty data here)
We no longer believe the governor’s policies will revive the state.
We are considering establishing “receiverships” for sections of the state, removing designated sections of the state and turning these areas over to “receivers,” organizations with turnaround experience in reviving cities and counties that will work closely with local stakeholders.
We increasingly believe that the answers are not on the second floor of the Capital, the answers are in the town halls across the state. Local elected leaders, community organizations, unions and faith-based organizations, working with “experts,” perhaps universities or other not-for-profits, can be more effective than state agencies directed by the governor.
As expeditiously as possible we are asking you to explore a process that will enable the state to relinquish economic development and other revenues to the local level and report your findings to us.
At the national level the Congress is increasingly uncomfortable with the Executive driving policy outside of the usual legislative process; an example is the Department of Education. At the state level we have lost confidence in the ability of the governor to drive economic recovery, and, blaming schools and teachers is absurd.
We look forward to exploring the empowerment of cities and counties.
Carl E. Heastie
Speaker of the Assembly
Majority Leader of the Senate