School Funding Summit Set For Thursday

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Call it a school aid summit.

A group of parents and educators have organized a meeting for 5 pm Thursday at Canton high school. The topic: how north country schools can get their fair share of state aid.

State aid has taken on new urgency in recent weeks, as some school districts run the risk of going bankrupt as soon as the 2013 school year.

A big part of the problem appears to be the way in which state aid has been distributed.

The effects are being felt disproportionately in districts like Canton.

"36 percent of schools in New York haven't cut one person, and meanwhile my school staff is reduced by 20 percent," noted Barbara Beekman, president of the Canton Central school board and one of the organizers of Thursday's meeting.

"New York state has historically not given out school aid funding in the proper manner," said Addie Russell, D-118th state Assembly District.

"And it is something we have to address in the next year, because our schools will fail withoiut fixing this system."

The problems with the state's school aid distribution were masked for decades by a generally healthy economy, so that even if a given school wasn't getting its fair share, it could still expect to get more each year.

That ended with the financial collapse of 2008 and has been compounded by changes in the way aid is distributed.

"I believe the school aid formula really penalizes the upstate rural school districts," said Ken Blankenbush, R-122nd state Assembly District.

What's not clear is whether any meaningful reform of state aid can take place; one early indicator may come in Governor Cuomo's State of the State message in early January.

Friday, April 18, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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