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The paradox of gun laws and public education

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To The Editor:

Has anyone noticed a strange paradox at work in New York state? On one hand, we have Governor Andrew Cuomo’s so-called “SAFE” act. Riding the tide of public outrage and emotionalism following a tragic event in Connecticut, the governor managed to ramrod through the legislature a bill that has been recognized by those on both sides of the issue as, arguably, the most poorly conceived and written piece of legislation to ever reach the floors of both houses of the state Legislature. Its passage is a testament to both the governor’s expertise in the exercise of political thuggery, blackmail and bribery, and to the inept and cowardly performance of a majority of the state legislators. That anyone in the state’s political system would expect us to believe that the bill sailed through the Senate in 20 minutes because a majority of senators recognized its merits is an insult to our intelligence. The bill’s stated purpose is to protect school children from inconceivably horrible events that they have a statistically indefinable chance of sufferingand that the bill’s sponsors have admittedthis bill cannot protect them from.

On the other hand, our school children in this state are trapped in a public education system that is falling apart. We spend more per student than any state but California, and we outspend them many years. Our students’ results on most standardized performance tests and our schools’ performance regarding measurable student outcomes hangs between 35th and 45th in the nation. Our school districts are bankrupt. This state has 700 independent school districts. That’s too many for the pool of administrative talent that is available, and it’s too many for taxpayers to support. It’s also too many for the state to keep track of.

Quick, Commissioner King, name half the districts you’re responsible for.

We spend tax money on studies that go nowhere. We squabble like gulls over the red herrings tossed out (think “community identity”). We struggle to make sense of the inane property tax system. Our teachers feel pressure to do a better job, on one hand, and watch the dark question mark of where their jobs will be in five years on the other hand. We blame “downstate” for our problems, and they blame us back. Those who feel personal comfort and security with the status quo (that includes most school superintendents and school board members in the state) speak of progress but don’t make any. With the turmoil in our schools, is it surprising that, in many cases, curriculum, instruction and assessment go right down the drain? The sacred trinity of effective education is relegated to the status of afterthought.

If the governor cared, couldn’t he step in and force the legislature to do something about it? After all, he got a completely unnecessary and constitutionally questionable law that benefits none and offends many(virtually every upstate county’s legislature has passed resolutions opposing it) through the Senate in 20 minutes. Neither the governor nor his friends, colleagues, minions and cronies in the elite political/financial class give a hoot about our kids or about us. Behind his blather about New York being “open for business” we all can see the truth: the taxes, regulatory load, and entire environment of “play ball with the political structure if you want to do business in New York” have driven business, jobs, and opportunity for our kids elsewhere.Most of what’s left consists of government employment, low-level service jobs and retail work. Our public education system is, arguably, good enough to prepare people for that. What do the governor and his allies in the political/financial cartel care about public education? Their kids don’t go to public schools and their kids aren’t limited to looking for entry-level opportunity in government, the service industry, or behind a checkout counter at a big-box mart.

So, we’ve got a governor whose actions clearly demonstrates that he wants us, as a people, poorly educated, disarmed, and dependent on the government for employment. Does anyone really want to connect those dots?

Charles Alford


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