Michael A. Rebell. Albany Times Union. 3/13/2004.

The March 2 article, "School aid plan targets taxpayers," misrepresents two important elements of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's recently proposed education reform plan for operating aid.

The article states that the impact of a mandatory local contribution from local taxpayers to their schools is "not immediately clear." Yet CFE proposes to increase the state share of support for education from 50 percent to 56 percent and correct the current inequities for determining the local share -- two actions that would result in property tax relief for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in New York state.

Statements made that a mandatory local contribution from local taxpayers to their schools would create an "unfunded mandate" are unfounded. CFE has asked the state to pay for all but 10 percent of the increase in support for education.

Furthermore, CFE's call for steady, stable and predictable school funding based on the needs of students in different locales would significantly strengthen local control of schools, not impose a burden on them. Creating a fair and understandable funding system is key to helping schools secure quality teaching, small class sizes, a healthy learning environment and up-to-date laboratories, libraries and textbooks.

CFE's operating aid plan is one more necessary step for ensuring that every public school student gets a chance for success according to the court's mandate.

We are less than five months away from the court-ordered deadline, and no one in Albany seems to be talking seriously about these critical reforms. CFE is not eager to return this case to the court and to a court-appointed master, but that means that the governor and the Legislature need to begin to seriously discuss the reforms we have put on the table.

It is time for Gov. George Pataki and the Legislature to face facts and truly throw the state's outdated funding system on the ash heap of history.

MICHAEL A. REBELL

Executive Director and Counsel