North Country Assemblywoman Russell pushing for more school aid
Friday, February 28, 2014 - 2:51 pm

Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-Theresa) Russell is talking up the elimination of what she says are “harmful education cuts.”

Russell has attended a series of meetings with North Country school superintendents to discuss the challenges facing North Country school districts ahead of impending state budget negotiations.

She signed a letter to the governor, along with dozens of her legislative colleagues, before he presented his budget requesting $1.9 billion in additional funding to schools this year. She says she is now fighting for that funding level to be in the final budget.

“It is clear that our schools cannot afford another year of cuts,” Russell said. “If we are serious about preparing our students to compete and be successful in the world economy, we have to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment and begin to reverse its harmful cuts.”

Implemented as a temporary fix in 2010 to close a state budget deficit, the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) has cost schools across New York more than $8 billion in lost state aid. To offset the cuts, school districts across the North Country have been forced to lay off staff and cut programs, resulting in increased class sizes and the elimination of business, literacy, foreign language, advanced placement, sports, art and music programs.

“These cuts have gone on for far too long and our schools are hurting,” Russell said. “It’s time to end this tax on our schools so they can provide the programs that keep our students engaged and have the opportunities necessary to enable our students to be successful.”

In addition to fighting to eliminate the GEA, Russell has authored a bill to address inequities in the state’s school aid formula. New York is ranked near the bottom in the country when it comes to funding equity, sending too much money to wealthy districts and not nearly enough to poorer districts, Russell said.

The bill, A.4609, known as the School Funding Equity Act, alters the formula to more accurately represent a district's financial situation, erases the requirement that all schools receive aid, and places more emphasis on how many children in a district qualify for free and reduced-price lunches as a measure of need.