JOHNSTOWN - Organizers of a rally scheduled for Tuesday are hoping to unite the voices of community leaders, parents and educators and send a clear message to Albany that they're not happy with the way state aid is calculated for districts.
"Essentially we need to regain parent awareness and give students, administration and teachers a collective voice," said Mayfield third-grade teacher and digital learning specialist Samantha Mulford-Phillips, who also is a parent of students in the Broadalbin-Perth district.
The "Rally for Education" is planned to take place from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services campus on Route 67.
Mulford-Phillips said the rally will include several speakers.
HFM BOCES District Superintendent Patrick Michel said if the state budget is passed before then, the rally may be canceled.
Mulford-Phillips and Michel said they wanted to hold a rally last year to trumpet dissatisfaction with inequitable aid distribution, but the budget was passed before the rally could be organized.
"I think a lot more people are aware of the gap adjustment, but there are a lot of people out there that simply are not," Michel said.
According to the gap-elimination adjustment formula, the 15 districts in the HFM BOCES region are set to lose $16.8 million total in aid, according to BOCES.
Mulford-Phillips said in her talks with state lawmakers, they've said an inequity in funding goes back three decades.
"We are asking the governor to close the gap. We're asking him to restore funding of state aid to our districts that are the neediest rural districts. At this point, we need to recalculate the formula," Mulford-Phillips said.
Cuomo, who during his State of the State address said he would become the lobbyist for students in education, proposed that increases in state aid be contingent on meeting deadlines for enforcing stricter evaluations for teachers and administrators.
Cuomo's $132.5 billion budget proposal would deny school-aid increases to districts that don't have "fully implemented" teacher evaluations by Jan. 17, 2013. If schools aren't acting to create a plan by Sept. 1, they will miss out on millions of dollars in competitive grants, a slice of the proposed 4-percent increase in school aid proposed for 2012-13, Cuomo warned.
That's separate from the $250 million proposed in competitive grants.
"The governor's proposed budget set aside $250 million for competitive grants to high performing schools, grants most of our poor local schools do not even qualify for.
"We demand that the $250 million grant allocation be redirected to help rural upstate schools keep their doors open another year," according to the news release.
The rally will also focus on the Mandate Relief Commission - which was established hand-in-hand with the tax levy cap but is still collecting data and touring the state.
"The Rally for Education will send a loud message to Albany that underfunding our children's education is unacceptable and wrong. State legislators were elected to represent the people - and children - in their districts," the news release states.
The rally will also feature a voter-registration drive to "provide citizens with the tools to elect representatives that will be accountable to their constituents," according to the news release.
The release also makes note that kindergarten is a non-mandated program on the chopping block at many schools, which would widen the gap between wealthier and poorer districts and put students "at a lifelong disadvantage."
"We demand that the state fully fund kindergarten for all students. It is less expensive for society to fund education than to pay for an undereducated adult," the release says.
Amanda Whistle can be reached by email at email@example.com.