New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his first State of...

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his first State of the State address in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y. (Jan. 5, 2011) Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the legislature are not in an enviable position ["Gov. Cuomo doubles down," Editorial, Jan. 5]. By what criteria do they differentiate between all the worthwhile initiatives that vie for their support?

I would make a strong case to fund early childhood initiatives. Since New York missed a chance to secure a federal Early Learning Challenge Grant, it is especially important for the governor to include early learning and development experts, advocates and issues at the table when he creates the education commission that he promised to establish in his State of the State address.

With resources stretched to the limit, why single out the early childhood years? We know that 75 percent of brain development and 85 percent of intellect, personality and social skills develop before age 5. Funding for early childhood education provides the greatest documented return for the expenditure.

Stephanie Freese, East Meadow

Editor's note: The writer represents Seniors4Kids, an education advocacy organization.

Newsday's "Cuomo Watch" [Spin Cycle, News, Jan. 9] reported on the governor's continuing struggle with the "most intractable" problem he faces: school governance. New York student test scores have been mediocre for years, while our costs and property taxes are among the nation's highest.

Another article reported on the sadness facing hundreds of families whose Catholic schools are closing ["Keeping the faith," News, Jan. 9]. Many of these students will switch to public schools, further increasing school costs. Public school costs can exceed $20,000 per student, while Catholic school costs are much less.

A bill called the Education Investment Incentive Act, which for years was not allowed to come to a vote by legislative leaders, provides for a 60 percent tax credit for donations to any public or private school scholarship fund. The bill is a win for both students and taxpayers.

It would net public schools $5 in donations at a "cost" (i.e., lost tax revenue) of $3. It would help keep private or religious schools open, and would give parents unhappy with their public schools the opportunity to transfer children to private or religious schools with privately funded scholarships, saving taxpayers as much as $10,000 per student in the short term, and more over the long term.

This past June, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) allowed a vote, and the bill passed overwhelmingly, 55 to 7. But Assembly leader Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) won't allow a vote because of opposition from public school unions.

Frank J. Russo Jr., Port Washington

Editor's note: The writer is a member of the executive committee of Long Islanders for Educational Reform, a taxpayer group.

When the track of the "third jewel" of horse racing's Triple Crown financially collapses, someone will say, whose idea was it to place that casino and convention center at Aqueduct? ["Wild cards: Plan to build convention center at Aqueduct raises a host of issues," News, Jan. 9].

Lately, Belmont seems to be forgotten when discussing casino plans. Someone needs to see the bigger picture.

Tom Karlya, Medford

I live in Floral Park, which borders Belmont Park. I am totally against a casino at Belmont.

A casino would harm the communities near Belmont with lower property values, crime and traffic nightmares. There are many schools within three miles of the site. Who is going to pay the additional cost of police protection? It's about the quality of life.

Diane Fairben, Floral Park

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