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A yes vote on Proposal 1 is a yes vote for our schools, our kids and our economy

ASSEMBLYMAN KEITH WRIGHT | 10/24/2013, 5:47 p.m.

Let’s be honest: Our schools are struggling. Our kids are sitting in crumbling classrooms, and if they are able to graduate at all (half of them aren’t), they are not prepared for college and careers.

Even worse, our schools aren’t failing all students equally: They are especially bad when it comes to educating minority and lower income students. Only 28 percent of African-American and Latino boys who enroll in a New York City high school will graduate within four years. That graduation rate has not budged in the past decade, and we can’t expect it to while we, as a society, fail to prioritize our schools.

Our school districts are suffering from a funding crisis. New York City’s teachers are dedicated and hardworking, but they are not miracle workers. They cannot teach a child to read without having a book for him to read. And right now, the New York state budget cannot spare the millions of dollars we need to properly fund our schools.

When the state can’t help out, the gaps in the New York City public school system budget tend to be filled by parents. At schools in higher income areas, parents will do things like organize galas and auctions to raise money for the schools budget. The parents will fund supposed “nonessentials” like new textbooks or arts programs. But that model only works for schools with highly involved and wealthier parents. At other schools, no one steps in, budgets are slashed and the students suffer.

Proposal 1 can help change that. It will bring $94.4 million each year to help fund New York City schools. That money will pay for teachers’ salaries, school supplies and special education. It will pay for field trips and textbooks. That’s $94.4 million that will no longer have to be paid for out of our taxes.

There is no silver bullet that will fix our school system for free. There are societal problems, such as poverty and unemployment, that make it incredibly hard for some students to perform at grade level. But more funding will make an immediate improvement in our school system.

Ask any parent, student or teacher whether their public school could do a better job if it had just a few thousand more dollars, and I assure you they will say yes.

There’s $94.4 million here for the taking. Every year, New Yorkers spend an estimated $1.2 billion at casinos in other neighboring states and Canada. All we need to do to bring that money back to New York is to vote yes on Prop 1.

The casinos want to come to New York. They know that casino gaming in New York state will build on our state’s existing top-notch tourism infrastructure. Our construction workers are eager to build world-class casinos. The business community, hoping to kickstart our sputtering economic, is just as welcoming.

And best of all, we get millions for the New York City school system. Better schools help everyone. A better public school system brings better jobs, more equality, more investment and a growing economy. The future of our economy lies in an educated and highly skilled workforce.

In an economy still recovering from the Great Recession, we shouldn’t forget the present, and Prop 1 certainly doesn’t do that. The New York state budget office estimates that it will create 10,000 construction and permanent jobs in the next two years. Many of them will be in upstate, close to the casinos, but they will cause a ripple effect that creates jobs downstate.

A yes vote on Proposal 1 is a yes vote for our schools, our kids and our economy.