To the Editor:
It is with growing concern about the future of our North Country schools that we ask for help from our community, friends, and neighbors.
According to a survey conducted by the New York State Commission of School Superintendents, 9 percent of districts statewide, or approximately 60 districts, will be unable to meet financial obligations within two years: Canton CSD will be faced with this reality at the end of this year. Within four years, that percentage grows to 41 percent, or about 270 districts. Potsdam falls into this category; our district has one more school year before our fund balance is depleted. Our governor seems to be willfully ignoring this growing catastrophe. Many North Country schools have been short-changed for years, and what has been occurring for the last four years in particular is nothing short of a disgrace. Many families and community members remain unaware of this issue because our superintendents and school boards have managed to make cuts in areas that are largely invisible to the average person. District savings have also been used to maintain programs, but this will not be possible for much longer.
This fiscal crisis is rife with misconceptions and misdirected blame and anger. 48 percent of the PCS operating budget comes from state aid. We are truly at the mercy of the state. Our tax dollars do not support city schools. North Country districts are largely low wealth districts that need financial support from the state.
Accusations of bloated administrative costs simply don’t apply here; our administrative cost per student is among the very lowest in the state. These criticisms are actually directed at downstate districts but have been presented in a way in the media that indicts all districts. When we lose staff and teachers, real dollars that are spent locally are lost. Job losses statewide due to the loss of state aid over the last three funding cycles has led to 139 million fewer dollars spent on salaries. Those are real people who when they lost their jobs, also lost the ability to afford services. When our schools become less desirable due to reduced programs and larger class sizes, businesses find it even harder to recruit and retain quality employees- and again, our local economy suffers. Lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of our legislature and Governor, who have failed to address equity in school funding in any meaningful way, at the expense of our children.
This is about fairness; it is about New York State funding our schools equitably and sufficiently so that all children may receive the sound, basic education that our state constitution guarantees them regardless of zip code. It is shortsighted, economically devastating, politically weak and morally wrong to hurt those least responsible for our fiscal difficulties.
We know that the sentiment exists that there is nothing that we can do- that the state will do whatever it wants. If you think that way, you would be right- unless enough people decide to act. If we all do nothing, or wait for someone else to act, nothing will change.
Governor Cuomo is making the budget now. In January, it will be too late. Please consider contacting his office (info at fairfundingforstudents.org) and asking for the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the removal of the wealth floor from the funding formula. Encourage Senators Ritchie and Griffo to sponsor and support a companion bill to Representative Russell’s Assembly Bill A.8844.
Our kids and kids all over the state of New York matter. Whether you are a parent or not, our community matters, and good schools are vital to the health and vibrancy of our community. We have a responsibility to remind our leaders that regardless of political party, they represent us and our interests: good schools are definitely in our best interest.
For more information, contacts, letter templates, and ways that you can take action to help our schools and communities, please visit fairfundingforstudents.org.
Potsdam Central School PTSA Executive Board
Maureen Moose, President
Michele O’Brien, VP for PHS
Debbie Shipp, VP for AAK
Rachel Wallace, VP for LAE
John Moosbrugger, Secretary
Robin Isaman, Treasurer