Judy Ducayne. The Citizen. 3/1/2005.

The never-ending "fiscal" story of education continues.

New York state taxpayers are being strong-armed by the education system once again. The newest "scam" says we need to produce more money to fund New York City schools. This would result in major income tax increases for middle-class families or a huge statewide sales tax increase. We're talking about a total increase in school spending amounting to $9.36 billion, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. This would be put in place over the next four years in equal amounts of about $2.46 billion per year.

School advocates say this will ensure that New York's students will get a "sound basic education." What a joke. If that only gets you a basic education, what would it take to get the best education. How about $3 trillion; is that enough?

School officials would have you believe that you don't care about the children if you question their budget; they only want what is best for each student. Meanwhile parents have to send their kids to school with glue sticks, paper, folders, scissors, Kleenex, crayons, markers, snacks and more. Wouldn't you think the budget would cover some of that?

Let's take our own Auburn District School Budget for 2004-2005: $52,958,595 with 5,000 full-time students. That's $8,826.43 per student. (I added another 1,000 students for those in night school and other programs).

This is our "free" public school system? Does $8,826.43 sound free to you? CCC only costs $1,450 per semester. Hmmm basic education $8,826.43 vs. $2,900 for college. It's so easy to spend money when it's somebody else's. Every time we let another budget pass we're saying OK.

But what happens if a budget should be voted down? Then we are punished! Sports, music, extra-curricular activities and even busing are taken away to teach us a lesson.

Of course, some say that the solution to the problem of paying for New York City schools is to tax the rich. Sounds great. Then the rich can pack up their companies and the jobs they create. And we're left behind to pay our own way, but with fewer jobs. The answer lies elsewhere.

We need "voucher" type programs (allowing parents to spend their tax dollars in private schools) to give our "free" public schools some competition; this should include home-schooling, which has academically out-performed the public schools by a wide margin. And let's stop throwing more money at the problem. That's what we've been doing and it isn't working. If money was the only solution, then our kids would all be geniuses by now.

Let's get back to basics: these budgets are filled with salaries, pensions, staffing, etc. The money isn't always going to the kids. Choices and competition would bring these budgets down and would benefit everyone.

Judy Ducayne's column appears Tuesdays in The Citizen.

She can be reached at sacredheart6005@hotmail.com