Budget cuts to local schools were foremost on the agenda at the annual DCMO BOCES/Chenango County School Boards Association legislative breakfast on Saturday.
The breakfast, held at The Silo Restaurant in Greene, brought together local legislators, school leaders and students to discuss issues facing local public school districts. In attendance were Sens. Thomas Libous and James Seward, Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, Deb Howard representing Assemblyman Gary Finch, New York state Regent James Tallon, and Kevin McCabe, representing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
In addition to superintendents and board members representing the DCMO BOCES region, there were 16 students from area schools. According to a media release, the focus of the morning’s gathering was the discussion of the regional impact of reduced state aid to the area schools.
Afton Central School junior Payton Cutting spoke of her career goals and the obstacles she is increasingly facing as a student in a rural, upstate school. Cutting also spoke of the likely disadvantages she will face getting into the college of choice with the limited opportunities provided to her from her rural school.
Mikaelan Cucciarre-Stuligross, a senior at Walton Central School, voiced her concerns regarding the impact that state funding cuts have had on her school. Her district has responded, as others have, by reductions in staffing, limiting extra-curricular activities and other opportunities that further erode her school’s ability to maintain any equality with other more affluent schools.
Kristin Rumovicz, a Unadilla Valley Central School Board member, shared data regarding the regional impact the sharply rising pension costs have had on schools, along with the limits imposed by the property tax cap. She reiterated her deep concern for her children’s education and opportunities that will be available for them if conditions persist.
In response to the presentations, the state leaders stressed that they shared the concerns expressed at the session. All acknowledged that New York state’s fiscal situation has resulted in reductions in the state’s ability to fund education. They pledged to continue to work with the governor’s office to do what can be done to support our area schools and the students they serve.
Crouch acknowledged that recent cuts to schools through the Gap Elimination Adjustment have had an increasingly detrimental impact on schools. He commented on the many unfunded mandates that keep being placed upon schools.
Tallon noted that, since the 2008 recession, there are fewer resources to use in the formulas developed for school aid, and stressed the need to revamp these formulas to address the lack of resources and the needs of our area schools.
Seward said that he and his fellow legislators have heard the message and concerns from our schools, and added that the removal of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and a more equitable distribution of aid statewide will continue to be a focus for the coming year.