This is getting old

The Observer-Dispatch on state school aid

March 19

It’s the same game every year. And it’s getting old.

And tiring.

And sickening.

It’s state aid to public schools.

Arguably the most important thing we do in this state — educate our kids — becomes a battle every budget season because the state doesn’t provide enough funding to do the job we need to do.

And it’s the same old story — inequitable funding for public schools across our state. We defy anyone to figure out the formulas used to do it.

Once again this year, Gov. Cuomo’s budget comes up with chintzy Foundation Aid that doesn’t keep pace with necessary budget increases due to inflation and contractual increases. It’s like trying to fill a gallon jug will three quarts of water.

Paul Berry, superintendent of the Mount Markham Central School District, summed it up this way: “A shortfall in the state’s ability to support local schools always causes school districts to examine at least three options: make cuts to programs, exceed the tax cap passing on additional burden to the local taxpayer or use additional allocated fund balance. Each of these choices is unsustainable.”

Utica knows. It’s entrenched in a lawsuit with seven other small-city school districts that claim they were shorted a combined $1.1 billion during and eight-year period beginning in 2007 because of both the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment and a freeze in foundation aid, which benefits students who are poor or need English-language education. Because of the cuts, the Utica schools laid off hundreds of workers, driving up class sizes, and were forced to cut programs.

Other schools are in similar predicaments due to tight aid and state mandates.

Spending per student is anything but equitable. According to the latest U.S. Census data available, New York spent an average of $22,366 per pupil in 2016. Last year, the Utica District spent $16,109 per student.

It sounds like a broken record, but what’s really broken is the school aid formula. Until it’s fixed, local schools and their taxpayers will suffer, but worst of all, we’ll be denying our children the sound education promised in the state Constitution.

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