Cross Posted in the Salamanca Press, March 26, 2014
I find government and politicians to be extremely frustrating. It sometimes seems they spin everything to meet their purposes and rely on the fact that the general public has little understanding of the details of any given proposal. And yes, I realize that many readers are now thinking, “Well yeah, how did it take her this long to figure that out?”
School finance is a great example. The governor, senate and assembly all play politics with their budget proposals for education. Politicians and their comparisons of each other’s budget proposals don’t help us. Foundation aid to our schools hasn’t changed since the school year in which I became a superintendent, 2008-2009. Consider the increases to the costs of everything from fuel to electric to food in the years since then! Our contractual salary increases and benefits have increased, even with the cost savings measures our unions have agreed to in every contract we’ve negotiated during that time.
I understand that we have well intended, caring and dedicated representatives in Albany. How those people ever get anything done within what seems to be a convoluted system is what I don’t understand.
At Randolph, we WERE a district who weathered the storm of funding freezes better than many districts due to our Board of Education’s decades long and fiscally responsible, yet State disapproved, method of maintaining reserves beyond the 4%. That’s changed for us after five years of maintaining budgets with little to no increase in state aid. After all, in Randolph we can raise less than $50,000 with a 1% increase to the tax levy. We are a district with many poor children who need us and the education, programs and meals that we provide to them. In an $18 million budget, we heavily rely on state aid. We have reached the breaking point. This means that my colleagues in other districts who were following the ridiculously low 4% unappropriated reserve rule have got to be believed when they say they cannot continue as they are or cut anything more.
Simply put, we cannot continue as things are at 2008-09 foundation aid levels. We need a total elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. That’s the only solution that will help our schools. School districts have managed as well as they could but there is nothing left for many to cut as Governor Cuomo touts a state surplus of millions. The gap elimination adjustment was started to help the State eliminate its budget gap—that gap has clearly been eliminated in the State budget now. Programs to school children must be restored.
Our governor continues to publicize “increases” to aid for schools. What he doesn’t make clear is that communities like Randolph will likely never see much of those monies. I cannot move to full day PreK, as much as I know our Randolph children would benefit, without a guarantee of full reimbursement. We cannot afford it. I have neither the time nor the staffing to go after these “grant” based monies that keep being offered by our governor–genius really, as then it’s a promise of money that most of us can’t obtain. There’s also an education tax credit which is absurd for a district like ours, who on earth do they think we have in Randolph who’s going to be able to afford to give us private donations
The state officials who we elect must restore education funding. That should be the goal of every elected official in NYS. We cannot raise the money on the backs of our taxpayers. We will not. Our students deserve a quality education—just as those in the wealthy districts of NYS continue to provide to their students. We need the representatives of our rural WNY region to continue to fight for full restoration of the GEA.