Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul, following in lock-step with her predecessor, vetoed a bill that would have saved the Fulton School District from losing more than $1 million in state aid due to a clerical error dating back to the 2016-17 school year. She did this despite near-unanimous legislative support for the bill and knowing full well the district serves an economically distressed population. They truly do need the money.
Several years ago, the school district extended its contractual agreement with its transportation provider, but due to a clerical mistake, the state Education Department did not receive the contract in time. As such, the district’s transportation aid was nullified. Gov. Hochul’s decision to veto this common-sense fix punishes students in a high-need area over a filing error which they have absolutely no control over. Now more than ever, we should be putting students first, and the governor’s latest move is unsympathetic and callous, to say the least.
Recently, New York state received a tremendous amount of federal and state revenue, as noted in the Division of the Budget’s First Quarter Financial Plan update. As a result, the state is in a much better position to remedy this error than the school district, and in other similar instances has done exactly that. What makes the matter even more frustrating is that the funds needed to cover the $1.6 million mistake were already appropriated and accounted for in the state budget. Yet students in Fulton and other districts throughout New York were merely an afterthought in the wake of the governor’s vetoes.
While not ideal, clerical errors are common in municipal governance. Under most circumstances, these situations are easily remedied through legislative action and no harm comes from them. Withholding the aid any further is needlessly punitive and extremely disappointing for the families residing in the school district.
The role of government is to take care of the residents living in their jurisdiction, not to punish school kids for paperwork oversights. Vetoing this legislation sends a clear signal to the people of Fulton and the rest of the state that this administration, like the one that came before it, is more interested in power plays and gamesmanship than it is in administering equitable governance.
School districts around New York have been put under unprecedented pressure and stress due to COVID-19 and its impact on students, teachers and parents. Now should be a time when state government does everything in its power to alleviate that stress. Sadly, it appears Gov. Hochul disagrees. As such, I will continue to fight for the people of the Fulton School District and work toward a solution that delivers fairness to the students who rely on that funding.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.