Kids Speak Week: “I’m asking for all small schools like us to be funded the way we should be.”

Kidspk

Today’s Kids Speak Week post is from Catalina Rusaw, a junior at Brasher Falls Central High School.

Currently there is a budget cut calling for all the arts at my school to be cut. What does that mean for me? That means that all the programs I am included in, that make me look forward to going to school, that help me enjoy high school will no longer be available for me. What does that mean for other students? They will be lessened a college opportunity. Some of these kids depend on these programs for scholarships, for a career. The state owes small public schools like us over 3 million dollars. Why haven’t we seen any of this money? Because of something called the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). This is the reason most small schools are in fiscal peril. This started first back in 2010, in the first four years schools have lost $7.7 billion in state aid that was promised to us by law. That averages out to about $2,895 per student. Schools only have two options raise property taxes or cut programs, services and staff. Because Brasher Falls is such a small school district, we can’t raise the taxes anymore because nobody has the income to pay for them so we are forced to cut the arts. I’m asking for all small schools like us to be funded the way we should be.

Kids Speak Week: “Something needs to be done; my future is at stake.”

Kidspk

Today’s Kids Speak Week entry comes from Brittany Hunter, a 10th grader from the Herkimer Central School District.

It has been brought to my attention that eight more teachers have been laid off in my school, Herkimer Jr/Sr High school. Most of the classes that I signed up for next year aren’t even going to be there. This school is falling apart and my education is at stake. It’s hard enough for me to try and make myself stand out to colleges now, but add on these new budget cuts and there will be nothing left. I’m being deprived of my education.

In order to figure out what path I want to take in life, I need classes. As of now, I think I may want to have a career in Dietetics and I was ecstatic when I discovered that I could take a Nutrition and Fitness class. I planned on increasing my chances of being accepted into a good college by getting an internship in the nutrition field. Because of these cuts, I’m never going to be able to excel; my opportunities are being taken away from me. I need that class to help me see if that’s the right career path for me.

I have built up a very strong opinion about the events that are currently taking place in schools, and I want to be a part of standing up for my education. It’s not right that the students are being penalized. Something needs to be done; my future is at stake.

 

#NYSBudget14 Rundown

With a tentative agreement on the 2014 state budget reached over the weekend, the New York State Legislature is expected to vote on the $140 billion budget this morning.

Last year’s vote took in excess of 13 hours, so we could be in for a long day before any announcement is made. Stay with us throughout the day for updates. You can follow us on Twitter, @edspeaksNY for the latest out of Albany.

Here’s what the education component of the budget looks like:

  • School Aid: The Budget includes a $1.1 billion – or 5.3% – increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year. High-needs school districts will receive nearly 70 percent of the 2014-15 allocated increase.
  • Reform Common Core Implementation: The Budget puts into law a series of recommendations to immediately improve the implementation of the Common Core in New York State, including banning standardized “bubble tests” for young children, protecting students from high stakes testing based on unfair results, ensuring instructional time is used for teaching and learning and not over-testing, and protecting the privacy of students.
  • Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget builds upon the success of the first-ever State-funded full-day pre-kindergarten program by committing to invest $1.5 billion over five years to support the phase-in of a Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten program.
  • Protect Charter Schools: The Budget increases tuition funding for charter school students over three years: $250 per student the first year, $350 the second, and $500 in the third. The Budget will also promote the growth of charter schools by addressing their facility needs. Charter schools will be eligible for Pre-K funding.
  • Smart Schools: The Budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond act. Bond proceeds will fund enhanced education technology in schools, with eligible projects including infrastructure improvements to bring high-speed broadband to schools and communities in their school district and the purchase of classroom technology for use by students. Additionally, Smart Schools will enable long-term investments in full-day pre-kindergarten through the construction of new pre-kindergarten classroom space, replace classroom trailers with permanent classroom space and make investments in high-tech school safety projects.
  • $1.5 Billion in Property Tax Relief: The Budget includes a new Property Tax Credit to provide relief to New York homeowners and address one of the primary drivers of the State’s high property taxes – the outsized number of local governments. The property tax relief package is designed to incentivize local governments to share services and reduce their financial burden on the taxpayer. In the first year under the reform plan, New Yorkers will receive property tax relief if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. The property tax cuts will be extended for a second year in jurisdictions which comply with the tax cap and have put forward a plan to save 1 percent of their tax levy per year, over three years. While localities may offer a variety of approaches, the plan is designed to incentivize county governments to convene and facilitate a process and submit a county-wide plan for approval. Over three years, the program will result in over $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief for as many as 2.8 million taxpayers.

Headlines from around the state

Education is focus as state leaders agree on budget (Buffalo News)

Pre-K funds, charter school protections, and Common Core changes in state budget deal (Chalkbeat)

ELFA Includes Common Core Changes (NY State of Politics)

Budget deal in Albany reshapes NY education, taxes (NCPR)

State Budget Deal Reached; $300 Million for New York City Pre-K (NY Times)

State budget would boost education funds by $1.1B (NY Newsday)

Charters appear to get some help downstate, not so much outside of NYC (Capitol Confidential)

Friday Rundown: 3.21.14

Somewhere in this great country of ours, someone is experiencing the warmer temperatures that come with spring. It’s just not you or me. Hopefully, your bracket hasn’t busted yet. The New York teams playing had an up and down day yesterday. Manhattan and Albany were tripped up last night, but Syracuse held on and will next play on Saturday. Here’s your Rundown. Enjoy the weekend!

Commissioner John King delivered his State of Education address yesterday and focused on the regents reform agenda (Albany Business Review, TWC News)

Gov. Cuomo presses lawmakers to support his plan for property-tax freeze (Poughkeepsie Journal)…NY Minute: Cuomo sweetens property tax freeze proposal (Syracuse Post Standard)

59 protesters arrested amid state budget talks, many education advocates (Albany Times Union)

Table targets: Small advances seen for education funding (Albany Times Union)

Opinion: Youth an asset to school boards (Albany Times Union)

Opinion: By re-electing Regents, state legislators reject further politicization of education (Buffalo News)

Common Core jolts prospective teachers (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Federal report: N.Y.’s education reform making progress (Journal News)

Why should kids just ‘sit and stare’? as parents, school officials debate Common Core testing (Buffalo News)

Opinion: Charter school $ecret$ (Albany Times Union)

Upstate educators slam budget plan to spend $540M on Big Apple (Times Herald Record)

Kindergarten, not pre-K, elusive for some N.Y. schools (Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin)

Are American students grossly unprepared for college? (Washington Post)

No, Kids Don’t Have More Homework Than They Did 30 Years Ago (Time)

Friday Rundown: 3.14.14

Happy Pi Day! A lot to catch you up on from this week, including the Senate’s one house budget resolution coming in late last night. We’ll begin there.

The Senate’s resolution gives an additional $217 million over the Governor’s proposal to public schools, but it also gives $250 million more to charter and private schools.

Among the proposals outlined in the Senate’s resolution was a new property tax relief program, dubbed “Freeze Plus.” Here’s the language:

PART FF: The Senate modifies the Executive proposal to create a $1.4 billion Freeze Plus program that freezes property taxes for two years by making the property tax relief permanent. Schools will be eligible for this program in SFY 2014-15 while counties, cities, towns and villages will be eligible in SFY 2015-16. This makes all municipalities and schools eligible in their next fiscal year. Schools will receive $400 million in the first year, growing to $800 million thereafter. Municipalities will receive $200 million in their first year, and $400 million thereafter. In order for homeowners in their jurisdiction to receive the property tax relief in year two of the plan, school districts and local governments must continue to stay within the tax cap and must work towards continuing efficiencies previously adopted with new efficiency plans that may include consolidation and shared services. Municipalities and school districts will develop and implement structural budgetary efficiency plans for sharing or consolidating services that, when implemented, will achieve real savings for taxpayers. Local Governments with 50 employees or less will also be authorized to join municipal cooperative health benefit plans as a tool to achieve savings.

The Senate’s resolution calls for $2.7 billion in funding over five years for a universal pre-k and after-school programs in New York City ($540 million for 2014-15). According to Capital New York, the Senate’s plan also includes $145 million for pre-K expansion in the rest of the state during the next fiscal year, but the funding would be flexible, so schools could choose to use it for kindergarten or restore general state-aid cuts instead.

Here’s an overview of the entire resolution (Capitol Confidential)…And here’s the actual thing.

Moving on…Here’s the rest of your education headlines from the week.

Educators learn Common Core on the fly (Journal News)…Prekindergarten programs, teachers work to keep up with Common Core standards (Glens Falls Post Star)…Parents want to opt out of common core tests, Commissioner says ‘no’ (WTEN)

Cuomo’s Common Core panel: Back off from inBloom (Capitol Confidential)…Read the rest of the panel’s roundup here.

North Country schools are pushing for an end to school-aid cuts this year. (Plattsburgh Press Republican)

Josephine Finn was elected to the Board of Regents, replacing James Jackson, who resigned Monday night. (Syracuse Post Standard)

Unhappy with state school funding, AQE marches on Albany (Capitol Confidential)

South Glens Falls High School held their annual dance marathon and raised a record-setting $583,000 for 39 beneficiaries (Glens Falls Post Star)

AQE calls on Governor to increase funding for all schools

On Wednesday, the Alliance for Quality Education took to the streets and held a rally at the Capitol, calling for the resurrection of their school’s programs, classes and resources that have been cut over the last five years.

Participants delivered this petition, signed by 14,000 New Yorkers, to Governor Cuomo’s office. The petition calls on Cuomo to support all students, not just the 3 percent who attend privately run charter schools. Last week, Cuomo attended a charter school rally in Albany, vowing to “save charter schools,” and ensure that they have the “financial capacity and physical space and government support to thrive and to grow.”

The AQE is calling for a $1.9 billion increase in school aid this year, which they say will prevent more cuts to schools this year and will get the state back on track with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In February, the AQE along with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project of the Education Law Center, toured 14 school districts across the state, gathering evidence of the systematic underfunding of schools.

“Governor Cuomo has ignored the cries for help from New York’s public schools,” Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education Billy Easton said. “Enough is enough.”

“Governor Cuomo has called education the Civil Rights issue of our day, and I could not agree with him more,” Superintendent of Schenectady City School District Dr. Laurence Spring said. “Too many school districts are being underfunded to the point of denying students the very basic services that they need.”

With the two houses of the state legislature preparing their education budgets, the AQE and CFE are preparing for a potential school funding lawsuit if the state does not live up to its constitutional obligation this year.

Mohawk Valley residents stand together at “Fight for Our Valley Schools” education rally #NYSchoolsInPeril

Rally_ANew York state’s formula for funding schools is cheating Mohawk Valley students, and residents must demand a change.

That was the message delivered to almost 250 school board members, school employees, residents and students at the Fight for Our Valley Schools education rally sponsored by Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES on Thursday, March 6, at Herkimer College. Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs, Herkimer Central School District Board of Education Vice-President Robert Mihevc and Herkimer Student Council President Daniel Adamek each delivered an impassioned message to the crowd painting a factual, but bleak picture of the plight facing the area’s schools.

“The truth is: You’re getting the short end of the stick,” Timbs told the audience.
Mihevc emceed the evening, welcoming attendees, introducing guests and offering his perspective of how state funding has negatively impacted his home district.

Throughout the evening, attendees texted friends and tweeted their support of the initiative.
After the event, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney spoke with many to listen to their concerns and to also encourage their involvement.

Numbers speak volumes

Timbs spoke for more than one hour, delivering a data-packed presentation that explained how New York’s school funding process deprives poorer schools of much-needed money while continuing to supplement the already strong academic and extracurricular programs of wealthier districts.

The problem begins with the simple fact that the Valley’s school districts lack the resources necessary to support their schools, he said. Using the state’s measure of a district’s wealth, the average New York school district is 1.1 times wealthier than Poland, the area’s wealthiest district, and 2.7 times wealthier than Central Valley, the area’s poorest district. He shocked the audience when he revealed that one New York school district is 52 times wealthier than the state average, making it more than 100 times wealthier than the average school in the Herkimer BOCES. Without sufficient resources to fully support their own schools, local districts rely more heavily on state aid than the average state school.

So, when the state began cutting school aid in 2009-10 to close the state’s budget deficit, it hurt Valley schools and its students worse than the average school. These cuts, known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment or GEA, have totaled $42.1 million dollars over four years to the 10 Herkimer BOCES component school districts.

“If there wasn’t a GEA – if there wasn’t a cut – life would be a lot easier in schools,” Timbs said.

Timbs noted that the GEA hurts poorer schools more than it hurts wealthier schools because poorer districts lack a property tax base to make up for lost revenue. His data reveals that area schools would have to raise property taxes by 5 to 13 percent to offset revenue lost under the 2014-15 projected GEA, while wealthy districts would only need to raise taxes by less than 1 percent.

He also refuted claims that the schools will get more state aid than in past years as the state reduces the GEA. He explained that districts will receive more aid than last year, but still not as much as they were promised four years ago. According to Timbs, even the GEA restoration plan penalizes poorer districts. In 2013-14, the poorest districts received an additional $83 per pupil while the wealthiest districts received $220 per pupil.

Unable to further burden local taxpayers, local school districts have cut staff and program and spent their savings. He warned that districts can cut the same teacher once or spend their savings once; schools are running out of options.

Repeatedly, he asked the crowd if they were beginning to see a pattern.

More than state aid and the GEA

Timbs said two other state initiatives are crippling schools.

The tax levy limit, mistakenly called the 2 percent tax cap, takes even more money from Herkimer BOCES school districts.

“None of the districts in this auditorium can raise their budgets more than 1 percent and still stay within the (2014-15) 1.46 percent tax levy limit,” he said.

He also decried the unfairness of the STAR property tax exemption saying that the state has increased the exemption in wealthy districts. The increase lowers the taxes of those living in the state’s wealthier communities, despite the fact that these communities enjoy high incomes and schools with broad academic and extracurricular programs.

A call to action

Timbs closed by encouraging everyone to ask elected officials to end the GEA and to develop a school funding plan that ensures students in all areas of the state, regardless of community wealth, of the high quality education they deserve.

Herkimer High School Student Council President Daniel Adamek took the microphone to present a student perspective on school funding. During a special summer program in Vermont, he had the opportunity to meet with students from throughout New England. Those conversations led him to fully realize how little his school could offer compared to other schools.

He stood before the audience and recorded a brief video of himself saying, “Governor Cuomo, my name is Dan Adamek, and I have a message for you.” Then, he turned the video camera toward the audience who chanted in unison, “Save our schools, save our schools!”

 

He invited everyone to visit a newly launched, student-run website Students for Fair Funding at www.fairfundingny.webs.com.

“We must tell our government that quality education is a human right – not a privilege reserved for the rich,” Adamek said.

Click here to visit the Herkimer BOCES website and learn more about advocacy efforts that you can get involved in.

Friday Rundown: 3.7.14

Another day, another cold morning. Looks like our temperatures are creeping up a little bit this weekend though. Silver lining, folks. Here’s your Rundown from the last week.

State Assembly Votes on Common Core Changes

Common Core: Aspiring teachers face certification hurdles (Journal News)

Common Core fallout: Lawmakers hope to find replacements for Regents (Journal News)

Editorial: Cuomo enlists taxpayers in fight for 2-year freeze (Journal News)

Student data company on the defensive at Assembly hearing (Capital NY)

Cuomo TV ad pushes his Common Core stance (NY Daily News – Subscription required)

In second meeting, Cuomo’s Common Core panel tackles new ed policies (Chalkbeat NY)

Money alone won’t solve the problems of New York’s schools (Buffalo News)

State’s budget gimmick is hindering schools (Hint: Three simple letters) (Oneonta Daily Star)

Cuomo Vows to Defend Charter Schools, Setting Up Another Battle With de Blasio (NY Times)…Fred LeBrun: Governor’s charter school baloney blitz (Albany Times Union)…Editorial: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s charter support is a win for kids (NY NewsDay – Subscription required)

College Board Shakes Up SAT (Wall Street Journal)…New SAT should reflect Common Core, standard classroom work (Journal News)

‘I’m tired of watching New York’s decline’: Rob Astorino announces run for governor (Auburn Citizen)

Coverage of Herkimer Regional Advocacy Forum

Tonight: Herkimer regional advocacy event

Tonight, school leaders, boards of education and community advocacy groups from districts in Herkimer, Fulton, Hamilton and Otsego counties, will participate in a regional advocacy event called “Fight for Our Valley Schools.”

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Herkimer College’s Robert McLaughlin College Center.

The event features guest speaker Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, who will explain how the state’s current funding formula is depriving the area’s students of the high quality education they deserve. Since the GEA’s inception, the state has withheld almost $43.7 million from the 10 component schools that make up Herkimer BOCES.

If you cannot attend in person, you can follow the event’s official Twitter account: @herkimerboces, or keep an eye on our Twitter account, @edspeaksNY, as we’ll be re-tweeting some of the highlights from the event.