On Sunday, July 12th, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) delivered the keynote address at the New York State Rural Schools Association (“RSA”) annual conference in Cooperstown, New York. Speaking on the theme of “Leadership in Difficult Times,” the Ssenator reflected on the difficulties presented by the continuing economic downturn and expressed pride that despite these extraordinary fiscal challenges, the legislature was able to restore deep cuts in education funding. She also conveyed her disappointment that the Senate’s recent leadership struggles may have prevented passage this session of several needed education reforms.
“If we are to continue to provide New York children with the quality education they deserve,” said Senator Oppenheimer, “we must empower our school districts with the means to increase efficiencies and reduce operational costs.” Senator Oppenheimer called on RSA members to join with her in working for legislation to ease the financial burdens on local school districts and homeowners through mandate relief, greater consolidation and sharing of services between school districts, expanding Wicks law exemptions for school construction projects, and targeted property tax relief.
Noting that the RSA has “a friend at the helm of the Senate Education Committee,” the senator observed that even with her leadership role, she cannot achieve all of their shared legislative goals by herself. She called on RSA members to make their legislative priorities known to their elected representatives and to “hold each accountable for shaping educational policy through his or her vote.”
Senator Oppenheimer expanded on these topics during a productive round table discussion with rural school superintendents on Monday, July 13. “Our commitment to education – our human infrastructure – remains paramount whether in times of prosperity or great economic uncertainty. Our children reserve the best education we can provide, and I’m confident that together we will not fail them.”