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Cash-strapped school districts gear up to slap state with a lawsuit

By ANNA MEILER

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Many high needs school districts want their fair share of funding and they're prepared to take the state to court.

The Alliance for Quality Education is traveling to 16 different school districts to collect data on class sizes, staff cuts, and overall resources to show how they're suffering. On Monday, they met with the superintendent of the Herkimer Central School District.

"These kind of resource deficiencies are systematic throughout the state and they're pervasive. They're everywhere," said Chad Radock, the statewide campaign coordinator for A.Q.E.

The group is also fighting for funding promised to New York schools after a 2007 lawsuit. The state took away more than half the promised $5.5 billion through the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

"The state balanced its budget on the backs of our kids and they haven't paid us back yet," said Radock.

The G.E.A. took over $4 million from the Herkimer School District, forcing them to cut 10 percent of their staff, their business program, most of their JV sports, and reduce their arts and technology programs to bare bones.

"A lot of our students especially that aren't maybe traditionally core driven, arts, technology, those kids have lost the reason to be at school," said Robert Miller, superintendent of the Herkimer Central School District.

Miller says they have to fight this fight because the students' futures depend on it.

"I think all schools are headed to the same place which is fiscal and educational insolvency which means that four or five more years of this and I don't think Herkimer can exist or fulfill even the basic education that our students need," said Miller.

They're also battling for more money in the current budget. Gov. Cuomo proposed over $600 million in education funding, but A.Q.E. says schools need $1.9 billion just to stop the bleeding.

In an interview with Susan Arbetter from The Capitol Pressroom, Gov. Cuomo says: "We spend more money than any other state in the country. It ain't about the money; it's about how you spend it and the results."

The A.Q.E. doesn't agree.

"The governor can say whatever he wants about too much money in education. The truth of the matter is if he came out here like we invited him to, to come see our schools that we're visiting he would understand money does matter in education and it's only through additional resources that we can get our schools out of the rut they're in right now," said Radock.

The A.Q.E. plans on meeting with legislators at the capital next week.

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