Balancing the Upstate Billions

Governor Cuomo Presented with Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan

Buffalo’s billion is being divvied up mostly as state investments in private enterprise – things like Elon Musk’s SolarCity. How the money is being spent is reportedly opaque, and controlled by very wealthy, well-connected people whose charge is to transform Buffalo’s economy into, according to the Buffalo News,

a hub for clean energy research and manufacturing, as well as a center for medical genomics research centered around the University at Buffalo’s supercomputing capabilities. Another center would have costly and sophisticated equipment that would help some types of advanced manufacturers develop new products and technologies that they couldn’t otherwise afford to do on their own.

That’s all very forward-thinking and laudable, but average western New Yorkers had no real input into how the state investment was made.

Some of the billion will be used for infrastructure changes, such as redesigning Niagara Falls’ sad downtown, and removing a portion of the Robert Moses Parkway, but that’s a small fraction of the billion.

More glaring is the fact that Cuomo hasn’t come up with a Buffalo or Syracuse or Binghamton billion.

During the 2014 campaign, Syracuse reporters were asking Cuomo why Syracuse didn’t have a billion, and Cuomo challenged the city to come up with a plan.

“I want to do the same with Syracuse,” Cuomo said today. “But don’t think I come and write a check and it happens. Because that’s not what happens. I don’t write the check until you have a vision and you have a plan”…

…To attract more state taxpayer help for the Syracuse area, the ideas and commitment from private companies have to be bigger, he said.

Winning communities, he said, have to be energized, coordinated and committed. “So I’m ready,” he said. “Are you ready, Syracuse?”

Syracuse is, evidently, ready, but its mayor, Stephanie Miner, has a radically different idea about how she’d use the money. More specifically, the state is staring at a $5.4 billion windfall from settlements with banks and other financial institutions, and trying to figure out how to spend it. School districts are clamoring for relief, at long last, from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and Republicans in Albany want money for infrastructure improvement.

As set forth in this editorial, Miner would spend $851 million of a Syracuse billion to replace its crumbling water system. The balance would be spent on municipal broadband ($84 million), rebuilding roads ($48 million), develop newly created public space due to a reconfiguration of I-81 ($3.6 million), $10 million for schools, and a $3.34 million public market specifically targeted at Syracuse’s new refugee residents.

But the price tag for the new water mains has a modern addition:

At the same time, the city would create a natural chilled water system to cool buildings cheaply, efficiently and sustainably using the cold water at the bottom of Skaneateles Lake.

Miner’s ideas for this money directly benefit all Syracuse citizens by spending public money on public needs, like infrastructure and schools. It bucks Cuomo’s goals of public-private partnerships for industrial modernization. The Post-Standard likes Miner’s ideas, although its editorial board thinks it doesn’t go far enough,

It’s an “eat-your-peas” approach that aligns with Miner’s view of the role of government, versus the “shiny toys” approach favored by Cuomo and the Buffalo Billion.

adding,

Miner is right that investing in infrastructure gets government out of the business of picking winners and losers in its efforts to stimulate the economy. Infrastructure is a public good that enables and encourages economic activity. Government doesn’t create jobs; it creates the conditions for the private sector to create jobs.

The mayor is smart to capitalize on Syracuse’s distinct natural advantage — an abundance of potable water — and to piggyback on the existing paths that move it from Skaneateles to Syracuse. The question is whether “the best darn water infrastructure in the nation” is a boast worth making.

Whether by accident or design, the mayor’s plan leaves us wanting more. Think of it as an opening bid. Who’s willing to push her vision farther?

Frankly, wouldn’t it be prudent for a city to use a massive windfall to balance eat-your-peas with one or two big projects that could lead to a fundamental restructuring of its economy? This is without getting into how Cuomo’s handouts to upstate communities hardly puts a dent in the palpable damage that his hedge fund donors have done to those same communities.

But Miner makes a good argument – what’s the point, for instance, of building Syracuse’s version of Canalside if it’s going to be dependent on water mains from the 1890s?

Governor Cuomo has put up a $1 billion revitalization fund that upstate cities must compete for to receive. Business leaders have called on the governor to up the stakes to $2.5 billion.

There needs to be a good balance between direct state investment in capital projects, as well as public-private partnerships to jump-start anemic upstate economies. After all, it’s not like a complete rebuild of Syracuse’s water system isn’t going to directly benefit private contractors, as well.

But fundamental to remaking upstate, and a point that always gets overlooked because it’s far less sexy than Cuomo making it rain, is that Albany has yet to address things like making it easier and less onerous to start and maintain a business in New York State. It has yet properly to address the dysfunction of myriad stacked taxing districts and authorities that implement and make you pay for unfunded Albany mandates, over and over again.

Amherst Parking: Coda

As a follow-up to yesterday’s viral story about an ugly verbal altercation in a local parking lot, I received an email late Tuesday from Marcia Lynn, the woman who shot the video of Kyle Mast verbally berating her from his pickup truck.

Here’s what she had to say in response to his explanation/apology:

In reference to Mr. Mast saying he did not “intentionally” park in a handicapped spot and he is “sensitive” to the needs of handicapped people, this is clearly false. There was no snow on the ground in Dick’s lot on Sunday.  All of the spaces have handicapped markings. My husband saw them when parking and didn’t park in those spots.  And even if he missed those clues, I did POLITELY tell him the first time he got out of his truck that it was handicapped. He chose not to move his car and said he didn’t care.  He stayed in the handicapped spot.

Mr. Mast said he was only in Dick’s for 5 minutes, yet he told you he went into Dick’s to “check out if there were any good sales.”  I’m sorry, but is he really trying to insinuate that he drove all the way to Dick’s to spend 5 minutes in there? I don’t think so. It takes longer than that to look at sale goods and he was in there longer. He pulled up right after my husband went in and my husband came out when I texted him after Mr. Mast called me nigger.  My husband was in there for a half hour. I feel he is trying to justify his parking in a handicapped space because he was “just in there for 5 minutes.” Which it wasn’t, but no matter how long he was in there, he shouldn’t have parked in that handicapped spot.

As far as going in to contact the manager or calling the police -I didn’t think to do it. I wouldn’t call 911 for a non-emergency and what is a store manager going to do?  Most retail employees fear customers’ reactions to being told such things. Additionally, aggressive customers like Mr. Mast have been known to attack people. If my husband had come out earlier, I wouldn’t have even been there when he came out. It would have ended there because I wasn’t pursuing the matter. I just thought to tell him so he didn’t take up the spot for someone who needed it, to say nothing of getting a ticket.

Mr. Mast says he is “adamant that he did not intentionally park in a handicapped spot.” He states, “it was accidental and not intentional.”  Well, if that is the case, then why didn’t he move his truck when he was informed of his indiscretion?  I’ll tell you why –he didn’t’ care.  He told you that he is sensitive to the “need for easy access for the disabled.” Yet, he didn’t move his truck.

In your interview he stated that as soon as he got out of his car, I began yelling at him, accusing him, “you can’t park there, you’re illegally parked.”  This is true. I did tell him that… But, he says he didn’t respond as he went into the store. This is untrue. We were both yelling back and forth to each other. I told him that spot was for war veterans without legs and people in wheelchairs. He swore at me. He yelled he didn’t care and told me “mind my own F***ing business.” Mr. Mast says that, as he came back out of the store, the “taunting” resumed until he got into his truck. He conveniently leaves the part out where he called me a B**** and was acting in an aggressive manner toward me the minute he came out. He was yelling and cussing at me when the only “taunting” I did was continue to tell him he was still parked illegally and he was wrong.  When he got into his truck he started revving the engine. I started videotaping because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. I was worried he might ram my truck or something else and I wanted it on tape if he attacked me.

Mr. Mast said he noticed I was videotaping and in a “fit of rage he used a racial slur.”  If that is the case, it would be interesting to see what he does when someone is not videotaping.  He says he is sorry that he did that, and says, “it just came out,” but I feel that sort of word does not just “come out” unless you use it often.  So Mr. Mast must use that word often.  He says, “He didn’t even know or think I was black, and was just trying to come up with the most hateful word he could muster.”   Well, that’s nonsense because I’m clearly not white and I doubt he’s called other white people that name. These are all excuses to try to justify his racist actions.

You say that you feel Mr. Mast was genuinely remorseful for what he said and what had happened. And yet, he has yet to apologize to me personally.  I feel he is sorry, but not for his actions towards me, but for getting caught.

A lot of people have attacked Marcia Lynn for confronting Mr. Mast, in effect blaming the victim. That’s ridiculous. There were many different ways that this could have gone down, and each actor could have taken a different path, but Marcia Lynn’s decision to openly confront someone who, according to her, was parked improperly in a handicapped spot, was not the cause of Mr. Mast’s outrageous reaction.

Would you confront someone who was improperly taking a spot reserved for people who can’t get around easily? Perhaps not, but if you did, that doesn’t give the pig parker license to curse at you or call you a racial slur.

With respect to Mr. Mast’s explanation, on the video when she said he was parked in a handicapped spot, he didn’t say, “no I wasn’t”; he said, “so was everyone else”. That’s in the heat of the moment, as it’s happening. In my opinion, his explanation doesn’t hold water. As for Mr. Mast, he could have simply driven forward and ignored Marcia Lynn. He could have backed up, as he did, and yelled whatever epithet he wanted – short of racial slurs – and it wouldn’t have been an interesting story. Once he whipped out “nigger”, the whole thing changed.

When I spoked with Mr. Mast, I reminded him of Janelle Ambrosia, whose racist rant went viral last year. He wanted me to take the post down, and, in consultation with the editorial team at the Public, we spoke with him and decided not to. Instead, we offered to tell his side of the story and to delete references to his work and home. I told Mr. Mast that he had been recorded – with his knowledge – and that he can’t simply un-ring this bell because it had come back to haunt him. I suggested that – contrary to Ms. Ambrosia’s experience – that he had an opportunity now to explain and defend himself.

Obviously, I had to give Marcia Lynn at least the same opportunity. Nothing, after all, justifies someone calling someone a “nigger” over a yelling match in a parking lot. People need to maintain self-control if they’re going to leave the house. Honestly, I don’t understand the mentality where if you’re somehow irritated with someone, and you know they’re recording you, you rant and rave like a lunatic for everyone’s amusement.

Marcia Lynn wasn’t doing anything wrong by pointing out Mr. Mast’s improper parking. Even if, as he claims, she goaded and taunted him while he remained stoically silent, that doesn’t justify his reaction. Drive away. Change spots. Keep your window rolled up.

Don’t park in handicapped spots if you don’t have permission to do so – ever, under any circumstances. Don’t yell racial slurs at people, even if you think they’re being mean to you. That’s the lesson in social media and virality for today.

Amherst Racist Pig Parker: Final Version

UPDATE: I spoke with Kyle Mast, the man shown in the video below. Without a doubt, Mr. Mast is having a bad day. To the extent people are contacting him directly to harass or threaten, you’re committing a crime and could be prosecuted. I gave Mr. Mast an opportunity to give his side of the story, and he obliged over the course of two phone calls. 

He traveled to the Dick’s on Maple to check out see if there were any good sales. He is adamant that he did not intentionally park in a handicapped spot. He sometimes has a placard to use for his own family members, and is sensitive to the need for easy access for the disabled. When he parked there, he says he saw no markings on the ground or any signs or poles marking that spot as being for the disabled. If he parked in a handicapped spot, it was accidental and not intentional. He didn’t see that it was a disabled spot, and he would typically have apologized had he realized his mistake. 

As soon as he got out of his car, Mr. Mast says Marcia Lynn began yelling at him, accusing him, “you can’t park there, you’re illegally parked” and making jokes about how his truck was overcompensating for something else; “big truck, small package” he recalls. Mr. Mast says he was “aggravated” by this taunting, but didn’t respond at all as he went into the store. 

Contrary to the Facebook post’s allegations, Mr. Mast claims only to have been inside the store for about 5 minutes, not 30. He adds that, if he had been parked illegally for 30 minutes, why didn’t the woman shooting the video complain inside to the manager. He also says that Marcia Lynn was yelling at other people about parking improperly. 

He says that, as he came back out of the store, the taunting resumed until he got into his truck. He was growing angrier because of the heckling, but also because he saw that Marcia Lynn was videotaping.  In a fit of rage – he says he was being “hotheaded” – Mr. Mast used a racial slur. He is sorry that he did that, and says, “it just came out”. He says, in retrospect, he didn’t even know or think Marcia Lynn was black, and was just trying to come up with the most hateful word he could muster. He admits that he wasn’t thinking straight, and was very upset because Marcia Lynn wouldn’t leave him alone. 

In speaking with Mr. Mast, I detected genuine remorse for what he said and what had happened. He knows what he said was wrong, and that there were many other ways he could have either defused or ignored the situation – just driving forward was one of them. Mr. Mast let his emotions get the better of him, even though he knew he was being recorded. 

Here’s a video from local Facebook user “Marcia Lynn”, capturing her encounter with the driver of a wildly conspicuous monster truck in the parking lot of a Dick’s store on Maple Road in Amherst.

Here is her story, in a nutshell:

 

 

So, a pig parker parks his Tonka truck in a handicapped spot for about 30 minutes, and when someone confronts him about it, he tells her to, “get a life” and, just before he drives off, calls her a “nigger”.

Here’s what his real-life Hot Wheels truck looks like:

As always, you can email me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com with any information / tips / etc .

 

Carl Paladino Gets it Exactly Right

A Tweet from Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel, who is in Maryland covering the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual confab.


I applaud Mr. Paladino for saying exactly the correct thing about Rudy Giuliani.

Seriously. Kudos.

Net Neutrality: Achievement Unlocked

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to keep the internet free and open. Classifying broadband internet service – including mobile broadband – as a Title II public utility, the FCC banned ISPs from trying to control what you – the consumer – get to see while using the internet. Some ISPs had already extorted additional fees from content providers like Netflix, threatening to throttle data streams unless they basically paid a ransom. That’s illegal now.

Now, the company from whom you buy your broadband service can’t speed up or throttle content you want to access, for any reason.

This is especially important for home broadband, which remains monopolistic in most areas of the country. Even here in WNY, unless you live in one of the small handful of places that have FiOS, you’re stuck with Time Warner. Do you want Time Warner to have the ability to dictate what you do and don’t get to access? Do you want Time Warner to slow Netflix down so it becomes unwatchable, while speeding up the stream of some competitor that paid TWC off?

People who seemingly don’t know any better have denounced this move as “Obamacare for the internet” and tried to frame net neutrality as excessive government regulation. This is, of course, utter nonsense. As this piece in Engadget notes, the loudest voices against this rule are from Republicans, libertarians, and big telecoms. The libertarians hate everything, but the connection between the Republicans and the big telecoms isn’t accidental, and GOP opposition to net neutrality has been well remunerated.

The telecoms opposed net neutrality because it forever closes off an additional potential source of revenue through holding content hostage in exchange for paid ransoms. It’s estimated, however, that Time Warner enjoys a 97% profit margin on broadband service. The guaranteed open internet guarantees that content providers can continue to innovate and provide incredible and competitive creative content.

From this Engadget article,

“It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today’s open commission meeting. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to telecom-backed critics thusly:

“This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

As a contributor to a content provider on the internet, I am grateful that the FCC has taken this step to ensure that the people who control that series of tubes we call the broadband internet can’t dictate to us what we can and cannot see.

Carl Paladino Threatens “Sisterhood”

Let’s get one thing out of the way: “blurt” is not a noun.

What follows is the text of an email that Carl Paladino sent to four women of color; three of whom sit with him on the Buffalo School Board. The fourth is the board’s attorney.

To: Ms. Barbara Nevergold

Ms. Sharon Cottman

Ms. Theresa Harris-Tigg

Ms. Rashondra Martin

Cc: Everybody

From: Carl Paladino

Date: February 24, 2015

Re: Slander

Over the last few months each of you has slandered me with blurts or the use of incomprehensible illogic and accusations that I am a racist and sexist or that I have a conflict of interest.

Slander may be defined as an intentional tort which means that I can initiate a lawsuit against each of you personally and you may not have the benefit to claim defense and indemnity from the Buffalo Public Schools.

Insofar as I am a public person, in order to establish slander I must also prove malice. Under New York case law, actual malice can be shown if prior to the slander you were put on notice that the slanderous statement is false and is not supported by fact.

This letter shall serve as notice to you that there is absolutely no discernible basis for your accusation that I am a racist or sexist. Further, there are two legal opinions from two different competent, qualified and objective attorneys that show that I, as a member of the Board of Education, have no conflict in dealing with issues involving charter schools.

This letter shall serve as further notice that in the event that you continue to offer false and defamatory statements, I intend to protect my reputation and will take all appropriate legal or other action at my disposal to do so.

Anyone with a checkbook can bring a lawsuit. It doesn’t mean anything. Anyone with a mouth or a pen or a computer can threaten a lawsuit. That, too, is meaningless.  The underlying question is whether the lawsuit has any merit.

Cutting again to the chase, were Carl Paladino to bring this threatened defamation lawsuit against the four women of color who serve with him on the board of education, his lawsuit would not likely withstand a motion to dismiss, because it would be completely without merit. In fact, anyone bringing it should be sanctioned for wasting the court’s time with utter frivolity.

Why? Because the underlying rationale behind defamation jurisprudence is that the plaintiff is protecting his reputation: his standing in the community, his good name. Alas, Carl Paladino’s reputation is not all that good. Sure, some people like him, and the Buffalo News has been his apologist-in-chief for decades, but Paladino is as reviled as he is beloved. Were Paladino to actually bring a slander lawsuit, and it made it past a motion to dismiss, he would by definition open his character and reputation up for scrutiny. The discovery process—the exchange of documents and things, and depositions under oath—would be compelling indeed.

Mr. Paladino accuses Ms. Nevergold, Ms. Cottman, Ms. Harris-Tigg, and Ms. Martin of slander because they have accused him of being racist, sexist, and of having conflicts of interest with respect to board action on charter schools. He threatens to sue them for slander. Mr. Paladino is not, however, a victim of actionable defamation. 

Firstly, the alleged defamation must be a false statement of fact. “Pastor Jones beats his wife,” if untrue, would be slander. On the other hand, “I think Pastor Jones is a violent jerk” is opinion, and not actionable defamation.  

Secondly, insofar as these women of color have made these allegations against Mr. Paladino within the context of their shared service to a school board, their statements are likely immune from any action for libel or slander. 

Mr. Paladino notes that he is a public figure. In the US, it is more difficult for public figures to bring successful defamation suits. They must prove that the false and defamatory statement of fact was made with “actual malice,” which the law defines as “knowing or reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.” But here, is it a statement of fact or a statement of opinion to say that Carl Paladino is racist or sexist? If a statement of fact, is it “false and…not supported by fact,” as Mr. Paladino alleges? 

One need only go back five short years to find ample evidence of Mr. Paladino’s purported sexism or racism. In email caches WNYMedia.net published on two occasions in 2010, there exist myriad supporting examples. 

Racism? Here’s the first batch of emails. Public official and Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino sent an email in 2008 featuring a video of African tribal dancers and it was captioned, “Obama Inaugural Rehearsal.” An email dated October 2009 shows President and Mrs. Obama photoshopped into 1970s-style “pimp and ‘ho” outfits. It’s captioned, “White House Ball.” Another email showed an image of black males running from what appears to be an airplane bearing down on them. It’s captioned, “Holy Shit! Run, Niggers, Run!” In April 2008, Mr. Paladino, “told an educational gathering that School Superintendent James A. Williams was hired ‘because he was black.'” The Common Council condemned Mr. Paladino’s remarks as “racially divisive.”

Based on these materials alone—which Carl Paladino approvingly forwarded to a wide array of local bigshots, politicians, bureaucrats, and developers—certainly the women of color who serve the Buffalo Board of Education can easily establish that their charges of racism against Mr. Paladino are “supported by fact.”

Sexism? That first email blast contained a handful of hardcore pornography, including a video of a horse having anal sex with a human female. A second batch of emails, published later in 2010, shows more hardcore pornography and degradation of women. One email shows video of a woman expressing breast milk onto a pane of glass, and there’s a lesbian scene that a vocal anti-gay Paladino labeled “awesome.” This current school board trustee sent around a video of a woman getting a Brazilian wax, and another video—from “fistflush.com”—of a woman shoving a bunch of bananas into her vagina.

Based on these two sets of released emails (more exist that have not yet been publicly released), the women of color against whom Mr. Paladino is waging war can easily establish that their charges of sexism against Mr. Paladino are “supported by fact.”

These women of color are, after all, referred to as the “Black Sisterhood“—sometimes by themselves, and sometimes by Mr. Paladino. There’s a significant difference, however. When they use that term to refer to themselves, they do so out of mutual respect, pride, admiration, and teamwork. When Mr. Paladino spits it at them with his characteristic vitriol, it drips with racial animus and misogyny, and it’s not accidental.

All of this comes just two weeks after Paladino publicly tore into Martin, calling her “ignorant” and threatening her license to practice law. This led Martin to make a formal complaint about sexism and racism by the Board of Education to the New York State Division of Human Rights. This is no way, incidentally, to “run a business.” It’s a waste of time, money, and resources to expose yourself and the school board to a civil rights complaint because you can’t keep your own “blurts” to yourself. Uncontrolled, hateful lurching from tantrum to tantrum is not how responsible adults behave in a professional environment. Even if you disagree strongly with someone, you don’t provoke them by calling them “ignorant” or otherwise trolling them.

“He’s gone after every female, African American female who’s an authority,” she said. “He’s done a lot of bullying. It’s typical of what he does. You can’t sit in an administrative position and do whatever you want to do.”

In her complaint, Martin alleges Paladino subjects African American female employees to a “racially and sexually hostile work environment.”

She also named the school board claiming it has taken no action to “admonish or address Mr. Paladino for his comments.”

Paladino maintains that Rashondra Martin has aligned herself with the four African American women on the board against the five-person majority, which is mostly white males.

“These people, devoid of any other plausible or reasonable argument to defend their positions on things, play the race card and that’s just what she’s doing,” Paladino said. “And that’s getting to be a burden.”

Finally, we turn to the allegation that Mr. Paladino has a conflict of interest as it relates to his advocacy in favor of charter schools. Companies associated with his Ellicott Development lease space to charters in Buffalo. Mr. Paladino rightly notes that a few lawyers have examined these dealings and concluded that there is no conflict of interest. That’s because Paladino quickly divested himself of any interest he personally had in these properties and transferred them to his children. Convenient. If his decisions on the board have a direct pecuniary benefit to Paladino’s children, that’s not legally a conflict of interest, but as a practical matter? None of this has been adjudicated or challenged in any adversarial way. The women of color on the Buffalo school board are well within their rights to continue to voice their opinion that Mr. Paladino is conflicted. They are well within their rights to accuse him of such conflict, and to do so in the press.

It’s not the first time Mr. Paladino has been accused of such conflicts. In 1993, then-Common Council President James Pitts told Paladino that he sits “on the top of the City of Buffalo like a vulture on dry bones,”; adding, “Mr. Paladino has mined the political fields very, very lucratively…If you begin to look at his involvement on all of these boards, his involvement is not based on public service but on private gain. Clearly there needs to be a separation of interests.” Pitts said Paladino’s conflicts of interest were “as blatant as Danny Thomas’ nose.” Indeed, in the 1990s, Paladino targeted his ire at African-American council members James Pitts and George Arthur.

If Mr. Paladino chooses further to escalate this fight that he picked by suing these women of color for defamation, it will make for entertaining copy. It will not, however, further any of the interests he purports to be promoting or defending. A defamation suit isn’t going to fix any failing schools, it won’t raise attendance or graduation rates, and it won’t do anything positive for the district’s overall reputation.

New York School Districts Left Guessing

School districts throughout New York State are now busily plotting out their budgets for the 2015 – 2016 school year. These budgets must be in final form by mid-April so that school boards can adopt their budgets in time for the public to vote on them by late May.

Every district relies on some amount of state aid for every year’s budget, and the state legislature’s unconscionable and cynical “Gap Elimination Adjustment” has short-changed New York’s public schools in the tens of millions of dollars.  Albany balances its own budget by robbing the state’s students of teachers and programs. Governor Cuomo then turns around and relies on standardized testing to determine which schools and teachers are “failing” or “non-performing” while refusing adequately to fund any of it.

In past years, districts had, by now, been given a close estimate of how much state aid they would receive, so that they could work on the local share of their revenue budgeting in an informed way. This year, however, is different. School districts are completely in the dark about how much state aid they might receive, and it’s making budget planning one big guessing game.

Governor Cuomo has introduced an education reform plan that would add just over $1 billion in public school funding; however, this increase in state aid comes with some big strings attached, and no one knows if it’ll pass – and in what form – by April 1st. We hear a lot about “on-time” budgets, as if it’s a laudable cause for celebration that the state legislature manages to accomplish its one real job in any given year. But what about the right on-time budget? Cuomo has said that no school district will see an increase in state aid over last year if his conditions are not met.

Cuomo wants five things:

1. A five-year probationary period before teachers receive tenure;

2. The ability to appoint receivers to manage the lowest 5% of non-performing schools;

3. A simplified teacher dismissal hearing procedure;

4. 100 more charter school slots statewide; and

5. Changes to the teacher evaluation system that Cuomo already implemented, relying more on testing and outside evaluators.

Republicans in the State Senate, meanwhile, have proposed a $1.1 billion increase in state school aid in an effort to roll back the Gap Elimination Adjustment. It’s estimated that it would take a $1.9 billion increase in state aid this year to restore state funding of schools to 2008 levels.

Cuomo is also proposing to do away with the STAR property tax exemption and replace it with a property tax relief credit that would phase in depending on the value of your home and your income – it disproportionately benefits downstate homeowners whose assessed property values are very high.

So, we have to rely on a dysfunctional Albany system and the three men in a room to negotiate an education reform and funding equation by April 1st, so that school boards across the state might be able adequately to plan their budgets for the next school year. The assault on public education – against students, teachers, and parents – has many fronts. The biggest threat, however, is treachery from within. It defies logic to simultaneously de-fund schools in order to balance the budget and demand that teachers, students, and schools are declared “failing” or “performing” based on a few standardized tests.

This simply isn’t how learning should look.