In everyday speech, people often confuse the words "hilarious'' with "hysterical'' simply put, the first means very funny; the second, wildly out of control. The words coming out of the mouth of the state Senate majority leader over state funding of New York City schools were both.
Joseph Bruno apparently felt comfortable going ballistic in a speech to the New York Conference of Mayors in Albany Monday. What unhinged his jaw and ire, apparently, was not the fact that a state Supreme Court justice ordered the state to increase funding to New York City schools by $5.6 billion over four years for operating expenses, and $9.2 billion more over five years for better facilities. No, the deadline to begin complying with all that came and went more than a year ago. Through appeals, it has effectively been ignored by Bruno and other state leaders.
Apparently what got one of New York's most powerful Republicans up in arms was an education funding group's plan to use the fall elections to target Republicans who refuse to support the court-ordered increases.
How dare they. Imagine: Citizens rising up and trying to take back a Legislature that defies a court order. And how dare New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a Republican, urge state leaders to settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. And how dare he put the brakes on $1.8 billion in school construction until more money comes down from Albany.
The League of Education Voters of America, a political action committee, was formed last week to engage "voters in the fight for fair funding for public schools." NY EdPAC plans to raise $3 million to use against 13 Republican state senators that the group feels are "refusing to adequately fund New York's public schools," The Associated Press reported. Republicans, we should note, hold a 35-27 edge over Democrats in the Senate, and incumbents in both houses rarely feel constituency heat.
That is, until now. Still, ranted Bruno: "I don't care how many damn guys raise $3 million to take our members out. We don't cater to threats." True; they don't even cater to the courts.
Bruno also shared with upstate mayors this tidbit regarding Justice Leland DeGrasse. He's the judge who last year affirmed the recommendations of a judicial panel and ordered Gov. George Pataki and the Legislature to provide the money. Stormed Bruno: "The judge in his lunacy said, 'You have to.' I'm sorry, that is lunacy.''
So, of course, is an entire generation or more of New York City school kids being given a third-rate education or worse; a lunacy due to inequity in government funding, all stemming from political horse-trading among entrenched politicians. Like Joe Bruno.