Unions across the state are telling us about the budget cuts their districts are facing. Hearing about cuts makes me think of cards. Hearing about just the three cases I dealt with yesterday makes me realize these schools have a cold deck. (For the non-card players, that means the cards are specifically rigged against them. They can not win.)
“The cuts to students in my rural community are devastating,” said Schoharie TA President Martin Messner, noting that one must really look past the numbers (because much of the aid to his flood-ravaged district is earmarked for emergency generators!) “When you get down to the details on how this budget impacts the classroom, our district’s cuts include; reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day, elementary class size increases, physical education class size increases, cuts to social studies, science, library, music, guidance counseling, social work and library services. But wait, it gets worse, because even after all those cuts, our district still has a $343,000 budget hole to fill.”
Sad to say this isn’t even considered news in Schoharie’s rural community, so I can’t share a link. Here’s a link to coverage about what’s happening in a neighboring district, Cobleskill-Richmondville, and the scenario in January.
Then let’s move to far western New York. Here’s a link to one report about what Salamanca faces.
Consider this for the Cattaraugus County district:
- Its proposed 3.3 percent increase in state aid this year over last is still less than what it received in 2010-11.
- The 2 percent tax levy cap limits the amount schools can raise without seeking a 60 percent yes vote on their May 15 budget vote, regardless of what students need.
- The district will cut between 18.5 to 27.5 instructional positions. So classes will have more students and those students will have fewer course offerings, support services, counseling, library services and many supports.
Salamanca TA President Christine Leavor and her members will be at a board meeting tonight to plead the case to not cut the future.
Then there is Broadalbin-Perth. The school board voted Monday night to abolish 34 staff positions to help close a $2.4 million gap in 2012-13. Here’s one link. One reason the gap there is so large is because its state aid was actually cut by $160,000.
Whether it’s the Adirondacks, western New York or the Capital District, everyone agrees that none of these cuts are good for students nor the community, but they do cut taxes. One thing you can do, sign the petition. Ask lawmakers to restore funds from competitive grants to basic aid. It’s a small step but it will help.
So what does this mean for May 15? That’s the date most school districts across the state will submit budgets for voter approval. How can we ask folks, in good conscience, to say yes to budgets that hurt the future? To be blunt, we have to. Because the deck is stacked against our schools and our students thanks to the tax cap law. If proposed budgets fail, districts face a 0 percent tax levy increase.
Coming next Tuesday, we’ll profile at least one district that will seek to override the 2 percent tax levy cap.