Lots of state education funding news today. First, Governor Paterson removed his proposal to enact mid-year cuts. From a letter he sent to school leaders today:

While school aid reductions remain on the table, it is unlikely the Legislature will consider them any time soon. Therefore, we would be well into the final quarter of our fiscal year and even further into the school year before any action would likely occur.

So mid-year is off the table, but Paterson says that means cuts next year will have to be much worse; the state simply cannot afford to ramp up school spending as it had been doing, he wrote.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has already pushed out a response to this letter. The group, which led the 14-year-long lawsuit asking for more funding for New York City schools, asks Paterson to find ways to raise revenues before cutting budgets. One idea is to raise income taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.

The full letter is below the jump, and for a review of all planned budget cuts, see my cheat sheet here.

November 25, 2008

The Honorable David A. Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

This afternoon you issued an open letter to School Board Presidents and District Superintendents warning them of major cuts to education in next year’s state budget.  Your warning would be more favorably viewed if you considered responsible, fair, and economically sound ways to raise revenues.

We are writing to respectfully urge you to consider revenue enhancing solutions to alleviate the need for massive cuts to our schools which are only now on the road to adequate funding.

There are a number of state revenue options available for your consideration ranging from the Bigger Better Bottle Bill to collection of taxes on cigarettes sold on reservations to bulk purchasing of prescription drugs for state workers. However, one that deserves particular attention is restoring fairness to the state’s income tax by creating additional tax brackets on the state’s wealthiest, as was done during the 2003 economic crisis.  The richest New Yorkers currently pay a much smaller percentage of their incomes than do middle class and low-income families.

This solution is both fair and economically sound.  It will help maintain our commitment to our children, while stimulating the economy through continued investment in salaries and infrastructure.  As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote to you in March, “It is economically preferable to raise taxes on those with high incomes than to cut state expenditures.”

For 14 years CFE led the litigation that established the constitutional right to a sound basic education for all public school students in New York. The final court order requires that the State provide adequate resources to fund this right.  The legislation passed to address the court’s order provides a four year commitment to fulfill the constitutional mandate.   We urge you to see that the state finds the means to meets its obligation – even during these trying economic times.

Your failure to consider ways to raise revenue does injustice to our communities and to our children’s futures.  We hope that you will take every opportunity to minimize the pain of this fiscal crisis.

Sincerely,

Geri D. Palast                                                              Billy Easton
Executive Director                                                      Executive Director
Campaign for Fiscal Equity                                        Alliance for Quality Education