Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 10:08:28 -0400
From: Martha Robertson <>

Sorry, folks. I forgot to attach Mark Finkelstein's letter. Here it is.

To the one or two people who wrote me complaining that I shouldn't respond in as partisan a manner as Mark Finkelstein had written, I would answer that it's quite appropriate that I do so. Mark raised partisan issues, for the first time (in my memory, at least) in local school elections. He didn't write as an individual but clearly as Republican Chair. He's certainly entitled to do that but I felt strongly that someone should respond. School board candidates and others involved in the schools should not be drawn into a partisan debate, and to my knowledge they haven't. But since I am an elected official known as a Democrat, I don't mind answering his charges. I wrote as an individual and as a Democrat, and no county resources were used in doing so.

And by the way, the State of Arizona also uses third-grade reading levels to predict the future need for prison cells; it's not just California. I just didn't bother to mention that in my earlier message. I'm attaching the NPR transcript from a 2002 story as the reference.

Please remember to vote today!

Martha Robertson

Dear friends and neighbors,

As you probably know, Tuesday, May 18, is the day to elect candidates for school board across the state and to vote on local school budgets for the coming year.
The attached letter represents a disturbing development in the conduct of school district elections, which have been genuinely nonpartisan in years past. Whatever the origin of this tradition, I believe it has served our children and our community well.

Now we see a new development with the mailing of a letter to Republicans in the Ithaca City School District, from the Chair of the County Republican Party. Mark Finkelstein is trying to make the budget vote and the choice of candidates into partisan issues.

In the letter Mr. Finkelstein writes: "...many board members have views on the curriculum and other issues that differ from those of most Republicans." Perhaps he means that many board members would NOT encourage poor students to drop out so test scores would appear to go up, as they did to achieve the "Texas Miracle" under Gov. George W. Bush. I also worry about Republicans who claim to have "fiscally-sound views." By that, do they mean they will follow the model we've watched in Washington over the last 3+ years?

Personally I strongly encourage district voters to approve both Proposition 1 (the budget) and Proposition 2 (directing the use of the present reserve fund to cover repair expenses in our school buildings). The PTA Council, representing all the PTAs in the Ithaca City School District, has overwhelming endorsed the ICSD 2004-05 budget. They write: "This budget balances the needs of our children with the fiscal demands made on our taxpayers as best as could be done. A NO vote will result in a budget that cuts even more services to our children."

The State of California uses the percentage of third-graders reading at grade level to predict the need for prison cells in future years. Let's provide what children need, now, and not wait until they fail.

I also urge you not to waste your vote, and to choose three candidates you think will serve our children well. I'm especially hopeful that, except for Mr. Finkelstein's desperate attempt, partisan politics remain out of school district elections.

Election Day information:

Martha Robertson