SPIRALING ALBANY SCHOOL PROPERTY TAX TRAP. WHO IS TO BLAME?
Fred Le Brun blames the cost of charter schools. See his article in Sunday TU, April 8, 2007, pB1, Cost of charter schools puts Albany in spiraling tax trap.
To the contrary, it is incompetence and ineptitude on the part of the Albany School Superintendent and School Board that is at the root of the spiraling property tax trap in Albany. The Albany School District is dysfunctional, spiraling out of control and accountable to no one.
Charter school growth is a response to, not a cause of , dysfunction and incompetence of the school superintendent, school board and school district.
Two options exist to correct this problem. One: make the Albany School District a Charter School District, or two: dissolve the Albany School District, merge it with city government making the Mayor responsible and accountable for the operation and performance of city schools, based on one, not two, property tax rolls. The latter is the preferrable course of action.
Both options will require introduction and passage of state legislation. Public pressure must be brought to bear on the Legislature and Governor, to make this happen, this session.
In the meantime, the State Education Department has the authority to take control of dysfunctional and poor performing school districts. The Mayor of Albany should request that Governor Spitzer make this happen, now.
In May, the responsibility will fall to the voters of the City of Albany to vote down any proposed increases in the city school budget and school property taxes. These increases have occurred every year for a decade or more. More money is not the solution to the growing dysfunction, poor performance and violence in Albany City schools
Routinely, school budget and school property tax increase are approved with less than 10 percent of the eligible voters voting. Of that 10 percent about 55 percent vote yes, with 45 percent voting no.
With property tax revaluation ( a tax increase) occurring and significant state aid earmarked for Albany in the new state budget, there can be absolutely no justification for a school budget and property tax increase to be put before city voters, by the school district, in May.
The solution lies in returning to a K-8 neighborhood school system which is best for kids, parents and neighborhoods. Eliminate the top heavy, highly paid school administation. Reallocate those salaries, and benefits, to hiring more teachers for the class rooms. Establish a residency requirement for all teachers, administrators and school staff. Establish, and enforce, a strict code of student conduct , in schools, in neighborhoods around schools, and on buses. Require all students to wear school uniforms. Remove unruly, disruptive pupils from class rooms, so that those who are motivated to learn, can do so in a sane, safe learning environment. Place the unruly, disruptive, unmotivated malcontents in alternative learning settings, including a boot camp environment, staffed by ex-military, for the worst offenders.
J P Sullivan