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.”