Canton woman urges state-aid reform for schools
To the Editor:
This letter was submitted to Gov. Andrew Cuomo:As a parent, a tax-payer, and an educator, I am very concerned about the future of my children and my community. I am deeply concerned by the fact that New York State is balancing its budget on the backs of children from middle class and poor families across the state.
In fact, our state now ranks an 46th due to its inequitable funding of education. The way the state aid formula has been adjusted to balance the state’s budget is severely flawed. It makes average and high needs districts such as the Canton Central School District bear a disproportionate share of the burden.
As budget season approaches I urge you to direct your budget division to address these issues in the following ways:
1. End the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). The GEA requires those districts least able to afford it to sacrifice their resources and cuts the very programs which their communities need. To illustrate the inequitable reduction in caused by the GEA, consider the fact that over three years, Canton, which has around 50 percent of the resource capacity of the average school in New York State, has lost 41 percent more than the state average per pupil, and 71 percent more per pupil than a similar sized WEALTHIER district!!!:
2. Address the problems with the inequitable Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and the Foundation Aid Formula that utilizes the Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) and measures of Poverty such as Free and Reduced
Price Lunch (FRPL). Our school has a CWR of .517 (in other words, 52 percent) of the average school in New York State
(1.0), and a FRPL of over 41 percent, yet we remain inequitably and insufficiently funded. There \ are schools which have multiple times the average level of resources (i.e. 4.0+) which are funded as if they have only an average level of resources!
3. Use current numbers when developing the formula. Our district’s poverty rate jumped from 13 percent to 23 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census, an indicator of increasing need in the community.
4. With respect to Canton, specifically, it must be re-categorized as a high needs district given current realities.
Our school is on the low end of the average needs category. Were our school simply re-categorized as a high needs district, the GEA funding cut would not have been able to exceed 6.8 percent of estimated expenditures. Our 2012-13 GEA funding cut was 10.78 percent of those estimated expenditures. Had it been calculated at 6.8 percent, our GEA funding cut would have been $946,000, or $770 per pupil less than it actually was. Perhaps we would not have lost 23 positions, and thus had more of the needed resources for our students had we been re-categorized to reflect our lack of resources.
5. Consider the impact of property that is off the tax roll. Universities, state and local governmental facilities benefit the community in many ways, but do not pay the property taxes from which our local funding is derived.
Educationally, our school has been regularly recognized as a top ranked school in surveys such as those done by
Newsweek, Business First, and the US News and World Report. Unfortunately, as a result of inequitably distributed state aid cuts, we have fallen off of a cliff: We are no longer a rural school that provides a sound education but a school struggling to survive. If the flawed formula is not fixed this year, our school will be educationally and fiscally insolvent by mid-2013. As the proposals for the new budget are being made, I call on you to provide fair funding for ALL students. Our future depends on it.
In the hope that you will stand for fairness and equity,
Viola Schmid-Doyle, Canton