Although other issues draw our attention, I urge you not forget the school-funding crisis.
Last year, the community organization Unatego United was formed to advocate for more-equitable funding practices for our public schools in this rural region where tax levies are not adequate to meet rising education costs, and where there is high dependence on the budget generated annually in Albany.
Unatego United hosted meetings and organized lobbying visits to Albany. We also organized rallies, including one in which 700-plus citizens from our district and other districts attended, along with news channels and several supportive government officials, including Sen. Seward, and Assemblymen Crouch and Lopez.
Although we attracted attention to the issue, our school district had to make numerous budget cuts, including staff cuts (six teachers, two school psychologists, two librarians and nine aides), and a reconfiguration of the two elementary schools in the district. One result of the reconfiguration was that many students who used to be able to attend their local community school now spend part of their day on the bus, every school day of the year.
In spite of these cuts, one year later, the Unatego School District is still in financial trouble. I know that our situation is not unique here in rural New York.
I ask the community at large to continue to work on this issue. Contact legislators to ask for help, and to advocate for a more-equitable state aid funding formula. Attend rallies. Begin to enter dialogues about possible restructuring of school districts — we are in this plight together.
Forgetting the problem will not make it go away. This is our future, upstate New York.
We, and our children, need your help. There is no other way.
Reyda is a founding member
of Unatego United.