Candidates Discuss Education Spending
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-part series featuring the two 57th State Senate District special election candidates — George Borrello and Austin Morgan.
Can state education spending be reined in while still providing school districts enough funding to continue teaching students at a high-level?
Both candidates, George Borrello, Republican, Conservative, Independence and Libertarian parties endorsed candidate and Chautauqua County executive, and Austin Morgan, Democratic and Working Families parties endorsed candidate and Cornell University graduate, running in the 57th State Senate District special election were asked about state education spending during a debate at The Post-Journal earlier this month.
The candidates were asked, “What type of policy would you support to both rein in the state’s education spending while also ensuring school district receive equitable funding as required under the state’s Constitution?”
Borrello said state officials should be more focused on educating children. However, he said that doesn’t seem to be the top priority.
“We spend a lot of money, as it is right now, for mediocre results because they are focused on special interest. They’re not focused on educating children,” he said. “They’re spending a lot of money on buildings. I think we should be looking at consolidating buildings. Not teachers, not education, but buildings. We are spending a lot of money on infrastructure for communities that want more options for education. We should be more focused on distance learning and expanding offerings.”
Borrello said larger school districts are able to offer more classes for its students, but those same opportunities should be available for students in rural communities.
“We need to be more focused on an education first agenda, which we don’t seem to have right now,” he said.
Morgan said the state needs to have a child center focus on the way it approaches education.
He said Cathy Young, former state senator, was proud to produce the most school funding in Western New York for her districts and he will be proud to do the same.
“Our districts need the resources to compete with the city districts and suburban districts that have higher property tax levies,” he said. “Our students need the skills and funding to make sure they can compete. As a candidate who has worked with special-needs students and worked in school districts across the state … I have seen personally students who are hungry, students with emotional needs go without counseling and students without new books for decades. I’ve seen students going without glasses. The state needs to step up to provide. We need to make sure student needs are met.”
Morgan said this year four school districts in the 57th Senate District received less funding than when Young was still in the Senate. He said, as a member of the Democratic majority in the Senate, he will have a better chance of obtaining the necessary funding for school districts in the 57th Senate District.
“Without a voice at the table, those communities and students lost because we lost funding,” he said. “We need someone at the decision making table. We need a candidate who has a vested interest, not just in students today, but into the future.”
In rebuttal, Borrello said, without Young, the cuts made to school districts in the 57th Senate District were politically motivated.
“The cuts were unnecessary and politically driven. That is the new reality in Albany right now,” Borrello said. “(Albany lawmakers) are not looking at students or the needs of the education system, but what they can do to apply political pressure, and that is shameful.”
Morgan said, if elected, he will fight for local school districts and not vote in favor of the Downstate agenda.
“If we want to get what we need out of Albany, we need someone within the caucus that makes the decisions,” he said. “The way to get things done, the way to help our district is by being at the table and sharing what Western New York is about.”
The 57th State Senate District covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua counties, and portions of Livingston County.