Senate panel on higher education now chaired by Stavisky

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State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) was formally appointed this week as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Committee on Higher Education, which she said will allow her to carry the torch of dedication her late husband gave to the issue.

Stavisky, a former teacher, has served as the ranking minority member of the committee since 2000 and had been widely expected to be named to the position by new Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−Jamaica).

“I look forward to serving the people of our state as chairwoman of the Committee on Higher Education. The challenges will be great, but with adversity comes opportunity,” she said.

Stavisky has been a member of the Senate since winning a special election in 1999 following the death of her husband, Leonard Stavisky, who had served as state senator for the district for more than 20 years.

As chairman of the state Assembly Education Committee and as ranking minority member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, he led the first successful override of a governor’s veto in more than 100 years with the landmark Stavisky−Goodman bill in 1975, which prevented city public schools from steep budget cuts during the 1975 economic crisis.

“So many people have told me that Leonard is smiling at me,” Stavisky said. “I hope to honor his memory by continuing his fight for quality education for all.”

Stavisky stressed the need for investment in higher education in her re−election bid in November, contending that putting money into CUNY and SUNY schools would not only help constituents build their skill sets, but ultimately come back to the state.

“Every study has shown that when there’s a period of economic turmoil, more people go back to school,” she said in early November. “I’m convinced that enrollment at CUNY and SUNY is going to go up. Where else can you get such a first−rate education at such a low cost? It will come back in the form of income tax, it will come back many, many times.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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