Scattered Clouds 46° Good Afternoon
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Letter: Public education growing too costly

Classrooms across Long Island were empty on Thursday.

Classrooms across Long Island were empty on Thursday. Check our listings of delayed openings, closures and cancellations to see what's in store for Friday. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

We spend $11.5 billion for public education on Long Island, and that figure is growing rapidly due to unsustainable employee costs. Yet this legislative session, no real pension reform was even considered in Albany because the public education lobby was opposed to any reform.

Instead, what passed for a school-funding fix — setting the stage for a constitutional amendment vote on gambling expansion — was the governor’s casino bill, which passed easily. With no political lobby against it, the bill passed based on promises that the proceeds will fund public education. How many new casinos and betting parlors do you think we will need to pay for all those lifetime public education pensions and perks — one in every school district?

People have to start thinking of public education as the largest single employer on Long Island and consider the enormous clout politically that it has. Unfortunately, unlike the defense industry, which was once our major employer, it is not a taxpayer but a tax consumer. The shrinking private sector tax base cannot support public education increases. As more private sector businesses leave for lower-tax areas, who will pay for $100,000-plus pensions and free lifetime family health coverage when no one is left here but public education employees and government workers?

Andrea Vecchio, East Islip

Editor’s note: The writer is an activist with the taxpayer groups East Islip TaxPAC and Long Islanders for Educational Reform.