Joining in the rally cry is Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who joined Mohonasen Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Spring, Schalmont Superintendent Dr. Carol Pallas and Duanesburg Superintendent Christine Crowley for a press conference Jan. 22 to call attention to the need to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment as well as fix the foundation aid formula so that upstate schools receive equitable funding.
Santabarbara is sponsoring a bill (A.4609), called the School Funding Equity Act, that would reform the state’s school aid formula to bring “fairness to upstate school districts that have been underfunded for too many years.”
“When it comes to education funding, every state budget feels like ‘Groundhog Day,'” Santabarbara said. “Now is the time to change that. We can no longer afford to take a Band-Aid approach to the inequities in education funding that force our districts to cut the valuable programs that help our students succeed. This year, let’s do away with an outdated funding formula that’s keeping our upstate school districts from receiving the funds they need.”
New York State is $4.4 billion behind on the phase-in of the foundation aid formula as required according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a landmark school funding lawsuit whose settlement with New York requires the state to provide billions more to schools across the state.
“This is a debt that’s long overdue,” Santabarbara said. “It’s time to provide the funding these schools need. We can’t make our schools function with even less when they are already owed millions of dollars.”
This ongoing loss of state aid coupled with legislation that limits property tax levy increases has left schools in a position where they have to cut student programming and staff in order to remain operational.
“There have been many calls over the last several years for schools to ‘cut the fat.’ The truth is that many districts cut the fat long ago and are now cutting bone. And that bone is the foundation of our children’s education,” Pallas said.
“We have done all of the things the Governor advocated by reducing any remaining redundancies and by partnering with other schools and organizations to maximize efficiencies. Our new Center for Advanced Technology is a perfect example,” said Spring. “The proposed budget threatens our progress in a way that is discouraging.”
Mohonasen has reduced staff by more than 47 FTE since the 2008-09 school year. Currently, the district is looking at an approximately $700,000 gap for the 2016-17 school year. The district is slated to receive only a little more than a $64,000 increase in foundation aid and will only see the GEA reduced by $245,000, leaving a deficit in aid due to the GEA of $416,000. This would bring the district’s total loss of funding because of the GEA to nearly $14 million.
Legislators are currently negotiating the state budget. Historically, adopted state budgets have included an increase in aid for districts over the executive budget. The deadline for adopting the state budget is April 1.
“Legislators need to hear the message that New York state must properly fund our public schools,” said Spring. “As a community of parents, staff, students and taxpayers, we must tell legislators that it is essential that our public schools are funded, the foundation aid formula is fixed and the GEA is eliminated this year.”
For more information on how to contact your local elected leaders, please visit Local Elected Leaders https://www.mohonasen.org/budget/advocacy/contact-your-elected-leaders/ or read the Advocacy page https://www.mohonasen.org/budget/advocacy/contact-your-elected-leaders/