Educators around here are tired of the state telling them what to do—especially when it involves spending $.
Municipal and county officials are tired of the same thing.
And businesspeople think it’s bad for everyone.
So all three groups announced today—at a press conference right here in the building where The Journal News is located—that they are joining forces to demand that legislators and assorted state bureaucrats ease up on the marching orders.
Several organizations have come together to launch a “Stop Albany” campaign. They even have small red signs shaped like stop signs that say “STOP ALBANY.”
And they have a website—stopalbany.com—where people can send electronic letters to state officials that say, in part: “When does it stop? Albany’s unfunded mandates are crushing Westchester. Your unfunded mandates are not unfunded. They are paid for with my property taxes, the highest in the United States. And even at that, my schools are cutting teachers and programs, my local government is cutting services, and my neighbors are moving away because they can’t find jobs or afford to live here anymore.”
When officials demand “mandate relief,” they are talking about all sorts of things. They basically mean state requirements on schools and counties and municipalities that come with costs that the state won’t pay for. And if the state won’t pay for them, then property taxes will.
Different groups are concerned about different state rules. But they all agree that the current state pension system, which is written into the state constitution and is costing everyone a bundle, needs to change.
School officials continue to be riled up that the state’s participation in the federal Race to the Top “reform” initiative is costing school districts MUCH more than what they’re getting in federal grants.
Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool—the president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents (that’s him with County Exec Rob Astorino) —has been a straight-talking critic of Race to the Top and its components, particularly the new teacher evaluation system. He called RTTT “race to the flop,” which could catch on among critics.
The new coalition hopes to use social media to draw parents and others to their anti-mandate campaign. Then its members will likely settle on a few mandates to take aim at before combining their lobbying efforts in Albany.
It won’t be easy. The Legislature tends not to budge on weighty matters. Wool’s superintendent council prepared a detailed report two years ago that showed legislators how to cut back on a few mandates that would help school districts save money. But nothing happened.
“In every case, the responses are the same: ‘These are big problems. There is nothing we can do,’ ” Wool said.