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Opinion

Regents fee tests taxpayer patience

A Regents exam.

A Regents exam. Photo Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile, 2010

In tough times, governments often try to shift expenses to other governments. That's happening now with the New York State Regents exam, and it's a political, not fiscal, tactic.

Regents board members say if state lawmakers don't provide an additional $15 million next year, they will be unable to administer hundreds of thousands of exams, thanks to a Department of Education budget that has been cut by 30 percent. Their only option, they say, would be to charge districts $5.93 per student - not just for students taking the exams but for every student in every grade in the district.

Shifting expenses from one government supported by taxpayers to a host of school districts supported by the same taxpayers won't affect those taxpayers much, but it's still a bad idea. The state mandates the tests, and the state should fund them.

The Board of Regents wants to send a message to Albany about its funding needs, and it wants to use angry school district leaders and parents as megaphones. For Brentwood, the largest district on Long Island, the tab would run $95,000. It would cost the average Long Island district about $20,000. The districts would have to find the money, and that's difficult because they expect cuts in state aid next year.

The state should pay for the Regents exams, as it has since 1865, because that's the fairest method; but it's all our money, and when politicians argue about which of our pockets to take it out of, it's hard not to laugh - or cry. hN

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