District News

Assemblyman Santabarbara, Montgomery County school superintendents come together for fair funding, end to GEA

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Montgomery County school districts officials and statewide education advocates stood together Thursday, March 10 during a news conference to call for fair education funding and an end to Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) this year.

"As educators we enter this profession because we believe that learning helps our students grow into the wonderful adults we see than becoming. We are limited, not by our vision of them or of our willingness to work to help them. We are limited by the resources we can provide to them," Canajoharie Superintendent of Schools Deborah Grimshaw said. "Since the outcome of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case and the revision of the foundation aid formula in 2008, Montgomery County Schools have been underfunded $160 million dollars. That's a lot of opportunities our students didn't have and that we won't get back."

In order to fix the aid formula, Grimshaw called for the state to end the “shares agreement,” which makes sure every districtGrimshaw and Bonnie Couture talk with Assemblyman Santabarbara receives state aid regardless of need, and called for the state to update how the combine wealth indexes of districts are measured. Currently, the state uses an artificial floor when measuring wealth, even though many districts are below that level.

“When it comes to education funding, every state budget feels like ‘Groundhog Day,’” Assemblyman Santabarbara said. “Now is the time to change that. We can no longer afford to take a Band-Aid approach to the inequities in education funding that force our districts to cut the valuable programs that help our students succeed. This year, let’s do away with an outdated funding formula that’s keeping our upstate school districts from receiving the critical funds they need to provide the quality education our kids deserve.”

In addition to Canajoharie school officials, Santabarbara was joined by representatives from the Amsterdam, Fonda-Fultonville, Fort Plain and and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville school districts, as well as the Alliance for Quality Education. The five districts are owed a combined $16.57 million, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a landmark school funding lawsuit whose settlement with New York requires the state to provide billions more to schools across the state. The schools stand to lose more if the GEA continues over the next two years as proposed by the governor and if the funding formula goes unchanged.

Grimshaw said, "For the past four years, Canajoharie Central School's Advocacy Committee has worked alongside other districts and organizations to remove the Gap Elimination Adjustment. We appreciate that for our district there is no GEA in the proposed 2016 -2017 budget. However, that is not the case for all schools in our county, and so we continue to advocate for removal of the GEA in its entirety. This year we are also strongly advocating for a revision to the foundation aid formula that appropriately allocates aid based on need. Since 2007, Montgomery County Schools have been underfunded by $160 million dollars. For Canajoharie, we have been underfunded $21.7 million dollars. As a poor rural school district, with a zero-percent tax cap, primarily due to lack of economic growth, our students' futures rely on foundation aid to provide an education that makes them competitive in their world."

New York public schools are still owed $4.4 billion in foundation aid and $434 million in GEA funding. The governor’s proposed budget for 2016-2017 includes an increase of $961 million, which is far less than the estimated $1.7 billion increase school districts need to maintain current services and programs.

In addition to calling for reform to the school aid funding formula, Santabarbara also joined his Assembly colleagues in calling for a $2.1 billion increase in school aid in this year’s state budget to help districts in upstate communities keep vital educational programs – opportunities that should not be taken from students.

The Assembly’s budget proposal, released Thursday, increases education aid by more than 9 percent over last year for a total of $25.4 billion.

Assembly Santabarbara speaks at a podium