By Jim Daszenski
On Election Day, Nov. 7, New Yorkers will be asked if a Constitutional Convention should be held to essentially rewrite the state’s govern-ing document. While this ballot referendum could severely jeopardize environmental protections and the working rights of middle-class people, unless we vote No, it’s the children of Great Neck who have the most to lose.
Giving the green light to a Constitutional Convention in New York could have disastrous effects on public education. Article 11 of the NY State Constitution guarantees all children the right to a free public education. A Yes vote on Proposition One could jeopardize this fundamental right.
Our state’s constitution also sets a cap on charter schools. Advocates of vouchers, parochial schools and charter schools want a Constitutional Convention so that they can funnel money away from public education and into privatized, largely unregulated institutions with little accountability. It’s unfair to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for those who make the conscious decision not to send their children to the public schools.
Great Neck residents take tremendous pride in their public schools, which are the cornerstone of an equitable society and a strong democracy, and a place where all students are guaranteed a world-class education.
Although some positive things may come from rewriting the state’s constitution, liberals and conservatives alike should fear the prospect of such a convention. Powerful special interests with deep pockets see revising the constitution as a chance to advance both far-right and far-left agendas.
Rewriting the Constitution is a Pandora’s Box we must not open. In addition, a convention would be extremely costly, with an estimated price tag of as much as $100 million. Surely, our politicians can find a better use for those tax dollars. A convention is also entirely unnecessary, because there is already a democratic amendment process in place, and the constitution has been amended many times in our state’s history without the need for a convention.
In what is considered an off-year election, voter turnout is likely to be low. Your vote will be extremely important. As proud members of the Great Neck Public School community, we ask you to support our students and schools by voting No to Proposition One on Nov. 7.
Jim Daszenski is president of the Great Neck Teachers Association.