New York suffers from an incompetent and corrupt state government, along withÂ dysfunctional agencies. That’s a problem to begin with, and exacerbated by our weak economy. While the problems trickle down, everywhere, I’ve been intrigued by high-profile, ongoing threats to eliminate public-transportation subsidies for New York City students. Steven Cohen, Executive Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, recently explained the dynamics in the Huffington Post:
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the city’s subway system came back from the brink of ruin due to the effective leadership of people like former head of the MTA and current Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch, former governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, and Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani. These leaders instituted the range of tolls and taxes now used to subsidize mass transit. Unfortunately, under Governor Pataki, the mass transit capital subsidy was sharply reduced, forcing the MTA to use more and more of their budget to pay debt service on transit bonds. Even worse, during the current $6.8 billion state budget crisis, Governor Patterson has further reduced the state’s subsidy for the MTA, contributing to the transit agency’s $400 million budget gap.
The MTA’s response to Patterson’s proposed funding reduction was the same one we often see when school board budgets are voted down by local communities. It’s what I call the football team gambit: Cut the most visible and popular expenditures and hope to stimulate a public outcry that results in budget restoration. In this case, the MTA started by announcing that they would cut free metro cards for schoolchildren.
While the politicking and gamesmanship, particularly by the New York state legislature, is nauseating, there’s some good to come out of this debacle. Mainly, this is a broad-sweeping threat which directly impacts students. It inherently becomes a tangible, life lesson in how their elected leaders operate. It touches upon: spending wisely in good times, preparing for rainy days, prioritizing and allocating limited resources, and leading in times of crisis. No teacher or curriculum can have the same impact. I hope the incompetence prompts greater interest in how our state and national governments are run, and encourages greater involvement, scrutiny and expectations among our young citizenry.
Is your state government providing such immersive education?
(Photo credit: shelle belle)