Statewide School Finance Consortium responds to Gov. Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address

By WKTV News

Statements from Dr. Rick Timbs, Executive Director, SSFC.

“We appreciate Governor Cuomo for turning the spotlight on public education in his State of the State address. We are encouraged that the governor recognizes reform is needed, but we are saddened that the Governor offered no specific plan for substantive, sufficient and sustainable state aid equity and relief. We are concerned that school districts will not be in the fiscal or educational shape to institute the progressive reforms proposed by the Governor.

“We believe the governor needs to go much further in seeing that state aid to schools is distributed fairly and equitably – not politically. The SSFC has offered analytical, thoughtful and constructive ideas toward real reform. We fear that state aid will continue to be distributed as it has for more than 30 years, using an unfair and inequitable formula that puts students from low wealth, high need communities at a distinct disadvantage and farther from state educational standards.

“First and foremost, we call on the Governor to redirect funds from ineffective and inefficient state departments, programs and initiatives to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment state aid cuts. The GEA is killing school districts regardless of how much they increase efficiencies and shared services. Sufficient state aid must be provided through an equitable Foundation Aid Formula beginning no later than 2014-15.

“The continued loss of aid has undesired consequences. Backed into a corner, schools continue to eliminate programs and staff and drain their fund balances. The threat of fiscal and educational insolvency has a ripple effect in communities. Who wants to invest in communities without strong schools? While Pre-Kindergarten is highly valued, there are many school districts in which a sustainable Kindergarten program is in jeopardy.

“It is no secret that the Governor views shared services and consolidation as a way for school districts to reduce spending. Districts continue to increase shared service opportunities to create savings. Extensive school district consolidations take a huge sum of money and will not relieve the pressure on the state education budget.

"What the 413 member school districts of the Statewide School Finance Consortium REALLY need to operate efficiently and effectively are fewer state-created and state-ordered mandates. Extensive, costly mandates make it impossible for schools to fulfill their mission of helping students learn, achieve and perform – in school, in college and in our increasingly competitive global economy.’’

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