With the state Senate set to deliberate soon on its education budget, Sen. Seward, R- Milford, brought the chairman of Senate Education Committee to Oneonta on Tuesday to discuss the issues with school officials. Seward is also a member of the committee.
Seward held a forum with John Flanagan, R-East Northport, at Oneonta High School. It gave the committee chairman a chance to discuss the issues with about 50 school board members and superintendents. Earlier in the day, they toured Franklin Central School and met with local officials.
“We’re in a unique time,” Seward said, with the legislature on a fast track to approve a budget. The Senate deadline is March 11. After that, the conference committee will meet with its counterpart from the Assembly to reconcile a budget that Gov. Andrew Cuomo can sign. The deadline is April 1 but with Easter and Passover around that time, the effort is being stepped up to meet the deadline.
“The next few weeks are critical to the issue,” he said.
Flanagan said that although he comes from a district in Long Island, he is interested in the whole state.
“Children should have the same opportunities, no matter where they live,” he said. He credited Cuomo with working with legislators to address the deficit he inherited, which Flanagan said has required working together. For instance, he said, last year the Senate took much of the funds that Cuomo wanted for competitive grants and distributed it to high-need school districts in the final budget. Flanagan said he will look to take similar action in the upcoming plan.
Education was one of the few areas that saw an increase in Cuomo’s proposal, and that is appropriate, he said. It’s important to keep reducing the gap-elimination deduction each school faces as a way to offset the deficit, he said, and more work needs to be done on mandate relief. The Legislature, he said, needs to do a better job of paying for those mandates that are needed.