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Grading the Candidates on Education Funding: Destito and McDonald, NY Assembly 116th District

Thanks to the Observer-Dispatch, we’ve got the local candidates’ views on education – grades and analysis below.

The 116th District of the New York State Assembly covers Oneida County. Incumbent RoAnn Destito [D] is being challenged by Kevin McDonald [R].

The O-D asked candidates in some state and federal races about their proposals for education funding. Here are their answers:

RoAnn Destito, D-Rome

roann destito, 116th NY assembly district

I am a sponsor of the legislation to implement the Statewide School Finance Consortium’s proposal to reform the state’s school aid formula. They have a sensible approach that takes into consideration the needs and circumstances of rural, suburban, small city and urban communities so that the state crafts a comprehensive education policy equitable to all regions of the state.

The federal “No Child Left Behind” program has largely failed our children and the school districts by being another federally unfunded mandate. We need to adopt standards in this state that continue to be equitable and predictable, providing for a sound basic education for all students without regard for socio-economic status and wealth in the district.

We need to review all state and federal mandates, and determine if they are duplicative and how more services can be provided in a shared, cost-efficient manner through BOCES.

Grade: C-. Destito’s approach to school funding uncritically throws money at the problem with little real policy analysis. Though equity sounds good – who wouldn’t want fairness and equality? – Destito’s plan is heavy on taxes and rhetoric, light on substance.

Resource equity between all schools in New York State is unachievable without massive increases in local property taxes – or state/federal taxes that are redistributed to poorer areas. Consider the inequity of an urban school district that spends ~$20k per pupil with a rural district achieving slightly above average [i.e., Cooperstown] spending ~$7k per pupil. If we were to achieve funding equity, Cooperstown’s students would see their resources triple – unless, of course, Destito is willing to argue that students in Rochester schools should see their funds cut by 2/3 and redistributed. The impossibility of that, both politically and pragmatically, necessitates a massive increase for rural/poor schools at the expense of other districts.

Instructional quality and the effective use of existing resources, Assemblywoman Destito – not just boatloads of money. Your answer shows a near-total misunderstanding of education policy, and that ignorance will continue to be expensive for Oneida County.

Sharing services through BOCES and potentially developing new solutions keeps Destito from a failing grade, though Oneida County voters should have little confidence in her ability to move the idea forward.

Kevin McDonald Sr., Republican

McDonald did not submit a response.

Grade: F. No response constitutes failure. If McDonald or his associates would like to submit a paragraph or two on education funding, I’ll post it here.

On the question of education funding, the advantage goes to RoAnn Destito – only because her opponent failed to submit a response.

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