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Sussman: LI Schools Not 'Pocketbook' for Rest of State

Republican Assembly candidates answers questions at Lawrence Middle School.

Dr. David Sussman, who is running against Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg in the 20th Assembly District race, said Monday that he wants to be the person in Albany to fight the unfair distribution of tax dollars to schools throughout New York.

The 17-year member of the Lawrence Board of Education said it’s unfair that Long Island schools only get back a percentage back of what they send to the state, which causes a huge strain for residents who are buried in taxes.

“We can’t have a government system where people can’t afford to support it,” he told the audience at Lawrence Middle School. “Why is Hewlett considered a pocketbook for New York City?”

Sussman was asked a series of questions by a moderator from the League of Women Voters before audience members asked their own questions. The event was organized by the Lawrence Central Council PTA. Weisenberg, who was scheduled to participate, canceled days before due to the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Here are some of the issues discussed:

The 2 percent tax cap: Sussman said he “completely” supports the tax cap put into effect by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said that before the cap, municipalities had looked at taxpayers as an “endless supply of money.”

Lawrence’s record: Audience member (and former school board candidate) Barry Ringelheim grilled Sussman on the district’s sinking grades during his 17-year tenure.

The board member defended his record, saying the “district has changed substantially” over the years, with 71 percent of the student population now receiving free or reduced lunch, and that the change came quickly. He also said many students have limited English skills.

“If you look past the shock, we’re doing quite well,” he said.

Tenure: Sussman railed on the current tenure system, which allows teachers to receive tenure after three years on the job. When asked about his tenure approval rate, Sussman said there was only instance where he voted against giving tenure.

“I am completely against the system,” Sussman said. “But while it’s in use, I will go by the rules. Three years is not enough time.”

State-funded education everywhere: Sussman suggested that the state should “subsidize” secular education in every school, so that parents can choose the best school for their children.

“Education should follow the customer,” Sussman said. “Anything that inhibits competitions produces mediocre results. I want to free the education system.”

The Republican candidate said that school districts already pay for nurses and books, “I see no problem paying for teachers in secular courses.”

Igwheet October 04, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Who do you mean exactly by "all the taxpayers"?
Igwheet October 04, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Need I remind you that if most of the district's students are in private schools, that would make most of the taxpayers are the parents?
Igwheet October 04, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I'm passionate because I live in another district and my taxes are double those in dist 15, and my property values are far lower. It has to do with high taxes and the certainty that taxes will keep on rising. Sussman has no agenda beyond making sure the people who already live here aren’t forced to move because they can't afford their property taxes. Harvey could care less, and show no signs of changing if he gets another term. I really don't understand how anyone can accuse Sussman of wanting to harm Lawrence schools. He and his children are Lawrence HS graduates, and he was on the board all while his kids were there. His only agenda was lowering taxes, and sticking it to arrogant board members who didn't care they were wasting taxpayer money, even though they were simply wasting district resources. That’s not good for the kids either. This should be the agenda of any taxpayer, public school parent or otherwise. Why fault Sussman for being the only one who saw things this way?
Igwheet October 04, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Another point ---- Right now, Lawrence has one of, if not the lowest taxes on long Island. This wasn't achieved by taking away services, and no matter how loudly opposition groups insist, Lawrence school performance is not down because of lower standards, but because the student population doesn't come from Lawrence Cedarhurst and Woodmere anymore, but from lower income families in Inwood. It's just a fact of life that academic performance in lower income students is lower than middle and upper income students. This would have happened no matter who was on the board. All this aside, whether Sussman is just the lesser of two evils, or the absolute best guy for the job, it's still time to replace Harvey.
suddenlysudz@yahoo.com October 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
lgwheet, you obviously do not have children in the district. I've been respectful of your opinion and appreciate a good debate, but you have never been more wrong. I've witnessed single handedly the things that have been stripped of the children in the district; from school trips, to inadequate spacing, to renting out portions of the buildings for afterschool programs for Yeshivas, lack of textbooks, I can go on and on.

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