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Rich districts, poor districts - school budget cuts deeper depending on area

By PAT BAILEY

ILION, N.Y. (WKTV) - The disparity between the sacrifices being made by wealthier school districts and those in smaller school districts was highlighted in the New York Times Saturday, using Ilion as an example of those districts that will be hurt the most by cuts to state aid.

For the article, a New York Times writer spent the day at the Ilion school district, talking to Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra. Saturday, that same writer wrote an editorial, comparing Ilion to a school district on Long Island.

The article was an eye opener for many, pointing out how the current state aid formula means the wealthiest of districts still receive massive amounts of funding, even when the funding is cut state wide.

The article compared Ilion to the Syosset school district. It stated that Ilion's budget is $25 million a year, with three quarters of it dependent upon state aid.

In contrast, the Syosset district has a budget of $188 million, 12% of which comes from stat aid.

In the Governor's initial budget proposal, where he proposed cutting school funding by $1.5 billion, both Ilion and Syosset saw the same decrease in funding.

"What we want to do is point out the inequities in the state funding system," Superintendent Tangorra said on Monday. "Wealthy school districts get aid that arguably they don't need, while less fortunate school districts like virtually every school district in Central New York don't not get adequate funding."

"The school offers only four of the possible 34 Advanced Placement courses, which allow students to earn college credit in high school," the article states. "The Advanced Placement course in biology was particularly hard won: school officials said they had to "steal nickels here and there" to buy microscopes and other material necessary to run the course, which is certified and overseen by the College Board."

In an effort to explain the vast differences between offerings at the Ilion District versus Syosset, the writer explains that Ilion currently offers only one foreign language, Spanish, and is unlikely to offer any others until and if the economic climate improves. As a result, a transfer student who was seeking a third year of French has had to take the course online.

In contrast, the article said that the Syosset School District's course catalog "runs more than 130 pages. It offers students Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Latin, American Sign Language and Mandarin Chinese. College-bound students, which is to say, just about everyone at the high school, have access to a dazzling array of almost 30 Advancement Placement classes that include different levels of calculus, physics, economics, environmental science, music theory and studio art.

"I don't begrudge any school district in the state who is able to offer their students a world class education," Tangorra said. "I think it is fantastic. I think any school district who can afford to do that should do so. Having said that, every school district in the state, every school district, should be at the same starting point, and that is not the case right now."

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