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State of New York vs. the Children of Seaford

What kind of cruel, callous, stupid State "AID" Formula results in Wantagh's children receiving SEVEN TIMES more money than the children of Seaford?

By all appearances, the State of New York really has it in for the children of Seaford.

Read yesterday's Newsday (January 18) which discusses at length Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2012-13 State Budget. On Page A34 is a table of school aid increases.

Now, before you go look, think about the governor's hype and political rhetoric about increasing school aid by 4 percent for 2012-13, and set your expectations. I also want you to think about Seaford and Wantagh as neighboring, mirror-image, basically homogenous small communities. Seaford and Wantagh, neither big enough to warrant having their own edition of Patch or The Citizen newspaper, both sharing their fire departments, and their school district boundaries overlap here and there.  

The biggest difference between Seaford and Wantagh used to be the colors of their high school football jerseys (green and gold versus black and gold). Sometimes in downtown Wantagh, the sign on the Wantagh Inn is changed to read "The Seaford Inn", if a friendly bet goes wrong on a football game.

Okay, now go look at the state school Aid table on Newsday Page A34 which shows how the existing formula will distribute the Governor's vaunted 4 percent "increase" next school year.

Seaford......$136,602 additional aid

Wantagh....$946,235 additional aid

Comparatively, Seaford will be receiving less than 2 percent more, while Wantagh will be receiving more than an 8 percent increase!

Seaford's formula increase amounts to a shabby one quarter of one percent of their budget, while Wantagh will be see a nice boost of more than one full percent of their current budget.

The chart conveniently fails to show the increase as an amout per student. But that is where I come in. The official State Education Department 'Property Tax Report Card' shows the following enrollment comparison for the current school year:

Seaford.....2,568 students

Wantage...3,446 students

Dividing the proposed state aid increases by the enrollment numbers reveals:

Seaford.......$53 more per student

Wantagh...$275 more per student

Therefore, in terms of raw dollars, Wantagh would receive seven times more money that Seaford, and in terms of dollars per student, Wantagh's increase is five times that proposed for Seaford's children.

This so-called "state aid formula" is cruel, callous, and just stupid, in my opinion.

I think the children of Seaford should get a lawyer and sue the governor for their individual fair shares of the state's tax money. I think the parents of Seaford should be all over State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, and Assemblyman Dave McDonough,R-North Merrick, to explain why they allow this formula to continue to exist, and obtain their committment to change it, and to replace it with a new aid formula that is not callous, cruel or stupid.

References/Sources: 

http://longisland.newsday.com/templates/simpleDB/?pid=394

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/mgtserv/propertytax/

The author can be contacted at chriswendt117@gmail.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Wayne Smith January 19, 2012 at 03:35 PM
So now the question becomes who among our elected representatives and/or other public officials would be willing to either explain or defend this disparity? As a taxpayer in Seaford I'd certainly like to know the answers to the questions you're raising.
Risa January 19, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I personally have already emailed Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman McDonough and PLEAD for all Seaford residents to do the same! This is an outrage to our community and we must put pressure on our ELECTED representatives to defend our community! Take 5 minutes of your time and send a message! Thanks!
Wayne Smith January 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Agreed - I've also emailed Senator Fuschillo asking for some kind of explanation. Let me suggest that if anyone hears anything back from any of our elected representatives that they then relay that information in the Patch.
Chris Wendt January 19, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I spoke with Dana Capua, the Assistant Superintendent for Business in the Wantagh School District. She advised me that part of Wantagh's increase is for Full-day Kindergarten aid. This amounts to between $630,000 and $640,000 for one year only. Subtracting that windfall from Wantagh's total increase shown in Newsday would leave a remainder of $306,000. However, based on her taking a closer look at Wantagh's number, she believes that $280,000 would be a more likely amount. Using $280,000 as Wantagh's proposed aid increase equates to $81 per student, which still compares favorably with Seaford, projected at $53 on a per-student basis. I am unable to explain why Seaford students are projected to receive less aid than Wantagh students, after Full-day Kindergarten aid is backed-out of the equation. However, this still begs the question, where's that 4% aid increase the Governor has promised? It is to be noted that these are NOT final or actual state aid numbers, but they are the result of running the Governor's proposed budget through the current cruel, callous, and stupid state aid formula.
John O January 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Well this is just a nail in the coffin as to why my wife and I sent our second child to Kellenberg instead of our local HS, and why #3 is going to Chaminade in September. My Lord how sad. Where? Where is the outrage?!!! I have never voted our school budget down but this is so disheartening. Our Board will have no choice but to raise taxes heavily. AND its NOT their fault.
Constance Roland January 20, 2012 at 02:06 AM
State aid will now be tied directly to district compliance with state & national education reform goals & incentives, such as teacher evaluations, curriculum initiatives, union CBA changes. Either our districts get on board and seriously change policies, or public schoolchildren will lose, and lose big.
Chris Wendt January 20, 2012 at 09:59 AM
Did you ever ponder the fact that our children, meaning those in Seaford, Wantagh, the Massapequas, Merricks and Bellmores, and in Trumbull, Monroe, and Fairfield, and similar middle-class suburban communities all across America are already "losing big", particularly because of national education reforms, especially federal ""Curriculum Initiatives"" and standardized testing which has taken on a life of its own, smothering-off and killing almost all legitimate state and local curriculum initiatives? We teach to the tests, If its not on a test, it will not be taught in the classroom. Back on-point of this blog, take a stroll through the numbers in the Governor's proposal, based on what is known as "current law", meaning putting a pile of money in at the top and letting the (cruel, callous, stupid) formula work. http://longisland.newsday.com/templates/simpleDB/?pid=394&currentRecord=101 In Nassau & Suffolk the formula aid changes range from -4.49% up to +11.15%, a spread of 15+ percentage points ranging from negative to positive outcomes. Now, look at this through the eyes of a child, or teenager, and make a sentence using the words "fairness" or "equality".
Constance Roland January 22, 2012 at 02:09 PM
A child watches his father pay the bills then dole out disposable income according to the goals, rewards, houserules, needs & wants of the family. Seaford wants more money, but did they comply with all the same houserules that Wantagh did? Not every district earns the same allowance. It depends on how the adults in charge decided to comply with the rules. There is the differences in the percentages. If Seaford wants a higher percentage, their adults need to make some changes. Thats exactly how kids look at this, because the Governor is the dad, and the districts are his kids. Not all kids earn the same allowance.
Chris Wendt January 23, 2012 at 11:31 AM
You described one of the worst aspects of education funding law in New York State, and one of the factors in the unsuccessful R.E.F.I.T. lawsuit seeking to have that funding law declared unconstitutional partially on that basis: too much state aid is based on a "spend-more-to-get-more" formula, which created a class of permanently "poor" school districts who don't have as much to spend, and therefore could never get as much aid. The R.E.F.I.T. districts were all on Long Island, and (with the exceptions of Baldwin and Wantagh) were technically low-wealth, high-tax districts. There is an actual State metric, called the Combined Wealth Ration (CWR) that officially classifies school districts as "low wealth". Baldwin and Wantagh did not fit that classification, however, we were/are "low tax base-high tax rate" districts. The State's highest court, acknowledging a lack of fairness, said the formula was nonetheless constitutional, because the plaintiff districts could not honestly say they were unable to provide a "sound, basic education" mandated by the constitution. Later, a New York City-based lawsuit was won by CFE by making a case that many schools in the city were unable to provide a "sound, basic education" for lack of State aid. This netted City schools between 4 and 7 billion dollars additional aid being paid over time. The Children, not the districts, are the children in need of education (dollars). The RULES need to change.
Wayne Smith January 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I claim no expertise when it comes to the arcane process by which school aid formulas are calculated. I certainly don't think that makes me unique. Indeed, I would argue that the fact that most taxpayers find this to be a mystery is inherently problematic. I would even suggest that there is anectotal evidence that school board trustees and school administrators can't figure this stuff out half the time themselves, and that arguably is even more problematic. Based on Chris's numbers, and adjusting for the full-day kindergarten factor, the increase in aid to the Wantagh district exceeds the increase going to Seaford by more than 50% on a per capita basis. As a Seaford taxpayer I have no idea why this should be. I will undoubtedly pay the same amount in state taxes, based on my income, as the person in Wantagh, and I don't think you could make a compelling case that Seaford kids are less deserving. And as noted, it's not as if Seaford and Wantagh are radically different from each other. I have emailed Senator Fuschillo's office about this and I know others have contacted him as well and also Assemblyman McDonough. There may very well be a rational reason or set of reasons explaining what otherwise appears to be a huge disparity and so an explanation from one of our elected leaders, or maybe somebody from the state educaiton department, would seem to be in order. At this point, as far as I know, no clarification has been offered. The silence is deafening.
Chris Wendt January 23, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Neither Senator Fuschillor nor Assmblyman McDonough wrote the formula. But as our current Albany representatives ONLY Senator Fuschillo and Dave McDonough can CHANGE the formula. I can explain (NOT justify) the formula. There are 700 school districts in NY, from big cities to thriving suburban districts, tiny rural districts, to the Seneca Indian Nation south of Buffalo. These schools are in Democrat-represented areas, and in Republican-represented areas. State Aid is allocated in the State Budget in a few large, round numbers (dollars) and approved by the majorities of 150 Assembly members and 62 Senators, with these chambers traditionally controlled by the Democrat Party, and by the Republican Party, resepectively. 212 Legislators all vye for their fair share of the total school aid each year. To avoid huge swings in aid every time the political landscape changes, and to keep the slices of the aid pie consistent (meaning relatively the same each year, as opposed to relatively equal among the state's children), a complicated, inherently unfair formula came into existence decades ago, with tweaks every few years. One significant feature is that Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester function as the Cash Cow for the rest of the state other than NY City. The formula is intended so that NY City breaks about even. This is undesirable for LI, but a product of long-standing political compromise across the state. The formula needs to be scrapped, and done over!
Wayne Smith January 24, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Chirs - Good points, all. As you note what this speaks to is how utterly broken this system is and ithat's reflected in the disparity in the numbers between Seaford and Wantagh. I would also wholeheartedly endorse the point that while individual elected leaders may enjoy plausible deniabiity in terms of the problems we are now confronting, they are all accountable for fixing this mess. It is up to us, the voters, to challenge them to do that and to hold them accountable if they don't.
Chris Wendt January 24, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Senator Fuschillo is in the process of making driving the wrong way on a one-way street a felony, if you've been drinking. That may effect as many as 20 people per year on Long Island, but it may not actually deter any drunk driver from actually going the wrong way, seeing as how drinking then driving is already going the "wrong way" from the instant the car is turned on. I don't see how a "One Way" sign makes it a felony. But putting 20 drunk drivers away for 4 years is more glamorous than fixing the way we fund education for the 2.7 Million students who attend K-12 public schools in NY State, and especially for the 6,014 children in Wantagh and Seaford. The State Senate passed Senator Fuschillo's felony Aggravated Reckless Driving bill...unanimously! http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/under-bill-wrong-way-dwi-would-be-felony-1.3473648
Wayne Smith January 24, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I just wish he answered his email.
Wayne Smith January 25, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Since I had previously suggested that if anybody heard anything from one of our elected repesentatives with regard to the issue of state aid to Seaford, that they so indicate, I should note that I received a call from Senator Fuschillo's office in the person of Sarah Holly, with whom I have spoken before. To cut to the chase, she indicated that as far as the Senator is concerned, "Seaford has a star on it", meaning that he'll be making an effort to secure a further increase. She also indicated that he has heard from numerous consitutents on this issue and is responding to them. I guess only time will tell what comes of this.
Risa January 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I too, heard from Sarah Holly and was given the same information which pleased me (as long as it is factual and gets followed up on). She did, however encourage us to write to the Governor as well to let him know that we are aware of the situation and will not let up until it is addressed. I ask everyone to PLEASE send a quick note and let Governor Cuomo know we are paying attention! The address/email is as follows: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224 Phone Number: 518-474-8390 E-Mail Address: via website www.governor.ny.gov
Chris Wendt January 25, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Musing about this, our (Wantagh & Seaford's State) Senator Fuschillo giving Seaford a proverbial 'gold star' and some action as well as hope for more money...but no such 'gold star' for Wanagh? Well, it doesn't fix the stupid formula,but it may be an easy one-off fix for Seaford's immediate predicament, right? And Wantagh? Well, the 'stupid' formula already did give Wantagh "more" aid from the get-go. What will be Senator Fuschillo's perspective if Wantagh hands back to the State $650,000 of their additional state aid, because they don't want to invest in Full-day Kindergarten? Seaford alreaedy made that investment, and stuck to it, which maybe part of what earned them their 'gold star' from our Senator. I mean, if Wantagh really does not want that $650,000 for Full-day Kindergarten, then maybe they should call up Sarah Holly and ask her to tell Senator Fuschillo to direct it to Seaford instead.
Lorraine DeVita February 08, 2012 at 12:39 PM
It is now February, having read this thread when it originated i refrained from commenting to see what if anything was being done on a community level to address this issue. I have sat back and waited patientently for someone other then a WANTAGHITE (Chris W) to raise the hue and cry on the LOCAL SEAFORD level in Albany While a few commented here and called Fuschillos office, the town is not ABUZZ with this there is no OUTRAGE, no organized push for Seaford, even if 100 brave souls called or wrote our local representatives, i find it highly ironic that we put more effort into raising monies for SPORTS then we do raising AWARENESS that we are getting the short end of the stick. Last year I took Mr. Brooks to task for starting a petition AT THE WRONG TIME for increased state aid. and falsley claiming we could at that time get the additonal funds we needed. Everyone one of those individuals who supported his effort although ill timed could have picked up the cause when the time was right. Seaford has no organized petitions no volumes of letter writing, no School Board incensed statements,No bus trips to ALBANY, however we DO have Conboy saying how pleased and surprised he was that we received more aid for the year then we did last year. The board gets testy with local residents speaking up YET they wont and dont get TESTY with Albany for shortchanging seaford.. someone explain this to me please.
Wayne Smith February 08, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Lorriane - For whatever it's worth (and probably it's not worth much) I think part of the problem is that people just don't pay a lot of attention to local school board politics or local politics in general, until either budget season (in the case of schools) or election season (in the case of everything else.) So as a result, community response tends to be muted even in situations when it ought to be loud and clear. People aren't paying attention. I'm sure there are people who may see this differently so maybe there's a different explanation but that's the best one I have. The problem I worry about, frankly, is that it is at the moment when you're not paying attention that you're actually the most susceptible to having your pocket picked.
Lorraine DeVita February 08, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Wayne, I appreciate your viewpoit and mostly concur, however not having been to a SB meeting due to the fact I am in MOTHER OF THE BRIDE MODE- I am still aware and concerned that our BOARD and administration are so overwhelmed with the day to day that they are not seeing the forest for the trees. Shouldnt someone from the District Ie the Superintendent for Business be tasked with insuring that Seaford residents ARE aware? If he can attend PTA meetings to raise support for a budget should he NOt also make the time to inform the public at large via PTA's to gather THEIR support and or even a Board meeting. While i cant believe i am suggesting our current Businness Sup actually SPEAK to the public i do think SOMEONE from the district should raise the hue and cry. I have lived here 37 years in that time when my kids were in elementary school the Board then under i beleive Bill ERB hired buses and SEAFORD was bused to ALBANY enmass! Why arent we doing that now. and if it is the COST of the buses the residents could pay for a seat. We are like the dog that repeatedly gets kicked and all we do is moan, whimper and curl up. No wonder we get less then others we dont complain ..
Chris Wendt February 10, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Congratulations, prospectively on you daughter's upcoming wedding. Don't fret over this stuff at this time. It will all still be here after the Big Day is behind you. Nothing will have changed!

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