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Letter: State needs to restore school district funding

State needs to restore school district funding

As school boards begin their budget presentations in preparation for the May 20 statewide budget vote, please don’t condemn the messengers. Their fiscal hands are being tied. Pay attention to what they are telling you. The biggest pitfall that districts face is the state’s continued insistence on reducing the amount of aid that it provides.

This practice began in 2010 when Gov. David Paterson stated he needed to offset the budget deficits after the Great Recession; a sort of shared-pain philosophy. This was supposed to be a one-year adjustment. This practice continues today. In reducing the amount of state aid provided to schools, it has caused boards to eliminate programs and staff, and increase tax levies. This continuing practice is known as the gap elimination adjustment (GEA).

What has the state done with this revenue reduction? Our “caretakers of education” have found a way to take monies from the education system and fund other new things, for political gain. Gov. Andrew Cuomo asserts that he has increased state aid in this year’s budget. Talk about twisted logic. He even has the nerve to assert that the state finds itself in a surplus situation. As many school districts will plead, they are seeking state dollars to just get back to 2010 funding rates. Many districts are depleting their fund balance reserves to make up the gap and avoid tax levy increases.

I implore state lawmakers and Cuomo to eliminate the GEA. Education tax dollars were specifically earmarked for education. School boards should not have to beg for dollars that belong to a district for education. Pay attention to what those messengers are telling you this year! Our future depends on it.

David Zalenski