As the state budget season ramps up, 10 local school districts came together to host a public forum on Thursday, Jan. 30 evening at Columbia High School to discuss with state legislators some concerning trends in state education aid.
School administrators including South Colonie’s next Superintendent Dr. Perry (effective Mar. 1), discussed school funding, the growing needs of students in areas such as Mental Health, Special Education and English as a New Language, and the negative financial outlook if the current trends continue without intervention.
The common thread among the participating school districts, which prompted this joint effort, was that they have received the minimum in state aid increases in recent years. For example, South Colonie CSD received an additional $121,826 in Foundation Aid for this current school year, an increase of just 0.0075, which is less than the rate of inflation. South Colonie CSD would have received an additional $274,516 if the Foundation Aid had kept pace with inflation.
With state funding being below the rate of inflation, meaning it does not keep up with increasing expenses, it forces school districts do more with less, and further shift the burden of providing a sound education from the state onto local taxpayers.
“I think that we can and should expect excellent results for all children in our public schools, “ said Dr. Perry. “But the reality is, that in order to achieve these results, we need individualized safety nets and a wide range of programming. We are all here because we are concerned that unless the current formula model changes, all of our districts will struggle to maintain the level of programming necessary to serve our students appropriately.”
In addition to the need for more state funding, legislators were asked to support a list of seven proposals, not directly tied to an increase of funding, that would benefit school districts. Some of those items included decoupling Foundation Aid and expense driven aid, raising pension caps for retired teachers to help hire quality, experienced substitutes and reducing state restrictions to provide greater access to mental health services for students.
See the full video of the public forum here.