Every special-interest group in the state was likely watching for what Gov. David Paterson would say about them in his State of the State speech earlier this week.

The public education field was left waiting, however, as Paterson said almost nothing about schools in the highly anticipated address.

”Those of us in education P-16 didn’t hear anything new in the State of the State speech,” said Chuck Pegan, executive director of the Chautauqua County School Boards Association. ”We have to examine previous statements released by the governor’s office to get the specifics.”

Those specifics, Pegan said, are not promising for public schools. Paterson already withheld $146 million from the state’s school districts in December – 10 percent of their expected aid. He also plans to withhold $436 million, or 19 percent, of districts’ scheduled STAR payments.

These actions have already caused Paterson to face a lawsuit that was filed in mid-December by the New York State School Boards Association, New York State United Teachers, the New York State Council of Superintendents and the School Administrators Association of New York State. The organizations claim that Paterson’s withholding of school aid previously allocated by the Legislature is outside his authority and against the law.

”The governor says that we are in a financial crisis and that gives him the right to act, sort of like declaring martial law – but what’s the definition of ‘financial crisis?”’ Pegan said. ”And if he can do this once on his own, who says he or some future governor couldn’t do it in the future, maybe using a different definition?”…

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