It appears as if most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's attempts to increase school funding are being focused on high-need urban districts.
In an effort to direct more funding to New York state's low-wealth rural districts, upstate senators have signed a letter providing recommendations for modifying the executive budget.
The letter was written by Sen. Patrick Gallivan, of the 59th district, and was signed by 17 other state senators, including Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean. According to Young, this bipartisan push for fiscal stabilization is just one angle of many that are being taken toward increasing school aid for rural schools.
"My goal is to reduce the gap elimination adjustment, and drive more education assistance to all of the schools in my district," she said. "There is $203 million in unspecified school aid that I would like to see distributed to the schools that need it most. I also think the governor's $75 million in competitive grant funding should be allocated as regular school aid, because it is difficult for poorer districts to have the resources to compete for grants."
In his letter, Gallivan acknowledges the governor's efforts at reducing the GEA in school aid is commendable, but not equitable.
"We were pleased to see that this year's executive budget continues to drive increases in school aid to high-need districts," he said. "However, we are concerned that a number of the low-wealth districts we represent are not receiving adequate increases in funding this year."
Gallivan asserts that high-need urban school districts such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse received restorations to GEA cuts of more than 40 percent, while many low-wealth districts received restorations of less than 10 percent. His letter states that thinning property tax bases and low household incomes in these low-wealth districts hinder their ability to raise the revenue required to fund a sound education.
Gallivan makes two recommendations in his letter that would modify the executive budget toward fiscal stability.
"Our first recommendation is to target fiscal stabilization grants at school districts with combined wealth ratios below the state average that will receive less than the state average of 14.9 percent of their 2012 GEA," he said. "Our second recommendation is to delay the $75 million of competitive program grants. While we are supportive of the ambitious changes these grants aim to bring about, we believe that these funds should be used to reduce the GEA of low-wealth school districts receiving GEA restorations less than the state average of 14.9 percent. These changes will ensure that low-wealth school districts can continue to provide their students with a sound, basic education."
Sen. Young said the Senate is continually seeking feedback and analyzing all of its options in order to find the best solution to be included in the state's executive budget.
"We are continuing budget hearings to fully analyze the governor's proposal," she said. "Subcommittees have been formed in the Senate, one-house budget resolutions will be passed in a couple of weeks, and then negotiations between the Senate, Assembly and governor will begin in earnest. Education is a top Senate priority, and we will push hard for positive results. We also continue to seek other constructive solutions such as establishing regional high schools."
In addition to Gallivan and Young, the letter includes signatures from: Sen. David Valesky, Sen. Greg Ball, Sen. John Bonacic, Sen. Kathleen Marchione, Sen. Elizabeth Little, Sen. Joseph Griffo, Sen. Patricia Ritchie, Sen. Hugh Farley, Sen. John DeFrancisco, Sen. James Seward, Sen. Thomas Libous, Sen. Michael Nozzolio, Sen. Thomas O'Mara, Sen. Mark Grisanti, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Sen. George Maziarz.