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January 23 2013

Schenectady still not receiving "fair share"
Supt. Spring makes call-to-action

Gov. Cuomo's Budget Proposal Increases SCSD School Aid by $3m
Additional aid helps bridge budget gap but not enough ..... not even close

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released his proposed New York State Budget on Tuesday, January 22, including proposed aid to school districts for 2013-2014.  The proposed spending plan includes a 4% increase in school aid for the Schenectady City School District.  As such, Schenectady would be set to receive about $3 million more in aid, reducing the 2013-2014 budget gap from $9 million to about $6 million.  While the increase will move Schenectady a few steps toward closing the gap, the district superintendent says it’s not enough and insists that Schenectady is still not receiving a fair share of aid.   

Superintendent Larry Spring said that while he appreciates the additional aid, significant issues remain in effect regarding the distribution of State Aid and points to how far Schenectady still sits from the median level of funding compared to many other districts across the state.  Spring said he will continue his efforts advocating for a “radical adjustment in aid for Schenectady.”    

State aid is the primary source of revenue for the Schenectady City School District.  Law determines what amount of funding a district should receive in order to provide a “sound basic education.”  Based on that determination, Schenectady should be receiving about $135 million. The amount Schenectady actually received for this school year is about $73 million, a difference of $62 million, and is just 54% of the total aid.  

New York State, like most places, is struggling in a difficult fiscal climate.  Spring acknowledges that we all must make sacrifices and said he understands why districts are not all getting their full funding amounts. But part of the problem is that some districts are getting their full share and some even more than they should.  The superintendent said there is a serious problem with the way the funds are being distributed. 

Some of the poorest and neediest school districts in New York State, including Schenectady, are not getting even close to the state median level of funding, which is 82%.  Meanwhile, many districts, including many wealthier districts, are receiving much higher percentages of their full funding amount.  Some receive 100% or more.  “There is something very wrong with this,” said Spring.  “It is not fair to our students, families or the Schenectady taxpayers."

Schenectady has made significant cuts, to the bone, over the last couple of years.  Dramatic changes in operations, closing a school and other cuts were needed to close a $9 million and subsequent $7.5 million  budget gap over the last two years.  Schenectady tax payers have made up the difference through property taxes.”  [Local Districts]

Spring has been sharing the statewide school data and pointing to the inequities that sit within the state aid picture.  While digging into the data and completing deeper analysis, the superintendent uncovered another significant equity issue.  According to the numbers, it’s not just poor districts that are being shortchanged, but districts with a high concentration of minority students are also receiving lower levels of funding. [Supt. Spring's Presentation to the Board of Education ]

Districts that are predominantly non-white comprise 32.4% of all the districts funded between 50-59%.  These districts represent 8.14% of all the districts in the state.  Not only is Schenectady poor with a Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR) that sits well below the average (0.386), the district is comprised of a population in which the “minority is the majority.” 

Spring has been bringing these serious inequities to the attention of the Schenectady community, as well as Governor Cuomo and other state legislators, calling for change and equity. While the inequities associated with race may have not been an intended outcome, Spring says, “they are there and it is up to our elected officials to fix it.” 

In regard to State Aid dollars, Spring emphasized that he is not asking New York State to increase the total state aid available.  “I am asking for close review of the issues at hand and to make changes that will make state aid distribution fair,” said Spring.   

He has even proposed an idea that could make the distribution more equitable without additional monies.  He points to the $126 million that is being over paid to districts (districts receiving 100% or more of their funding).  “Let’s take that money and bring the 22 lowest funding districts to the 82% median funding level,” said Spring.   

If Schenectady was receiving 82% of their funding, the district would receive an additional $37.9 million.  “Our budget conversations would be much different if we were getting just the median level of funding,” said Spring.   

Spring has contacted the Governor and state legislators to share his concerns and request immediate action.  “They have the power to make adjustments to this budget proposal and bring us to where we need to be,” said Spring.  He said he has a meeting with members of Governor Cuomo's staff next week.  

The superintendent is also asking Schenectady families, employees and community residents to take action. Please write to our legislators and press them to “do the right thing.”  Help the Schenectady City School District and residents of Schenectady get our "Fair Share."

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