Poll: Voters Unconvinced State Doing Enough to Help School Districts Financially

A new poll is showing New Yorkers want to see the state do more to aid schools, but the question is how to provide that money. Reporter Bill Carey says its an ongoing debate over whether the state is meeting its obligations in the classroom.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A new state budget hasn't convinced voters the state is doing enough in terms of funding the state's public schools.

"We told voters there was a 6 percent increase in the budget this year for funding for education. New York spends $23.5 billion, and we asked voters do we spend too much, the right amount or not enough," said Steve Greenberg, of the Siena Research Institute.

Of those polled, 60 percent of voters told pollsters that the state needs to spend more.

"If you look at just that 60 percent of voters who say they want to see the state spend more, two-thirds of them say they would be willing to pay more to help fund it. A third of them say no, 'I want to see the state spend more, but I'm not willing to pay more,'" Greenberg said.

Statewide, there was a near even split over whether more taxes should be collected for schools, although local officials say it should not be left on the shoulders of taxpayers to provide all of the additional money.

"It's about prioritizing and understanding where you really get a return and what people want. You can talk to anybody you want, but the most important thing about being able to compete in the worldwide environment that we have is having a solid education base," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

For years, school districts were due to get millions more under a court decision on funding equity.  But, the state has yet to live up to those needs.

It's almost $5 billion behind. It's a significant sum.  I think they have to reset some priorities. I think education has to be a major goal as is infrastructure," said Richard Timbs, of the Statewide School Finance Consortium. "It seems to me that whenever they do a budget, state government seems to find one of the easiest ways out is to try to make as many people as happy as possible by saying they gave them more money, even though they still owe them money.

And, despite new challenges in the courts, the state continues to resist the school districts' claims.

"It's like sadly humorous, in a sense, that if they had put those energies into finding a more equitable distribution for these funds, I think the students would be in much better position and so would be parents. Taxpayers too. I think there needs to be some justice brought to this system. It's patently unfair," Timbs said.

Lawmakers are still in session, but a solution this year seems unlikely.