Attendees of a Feb. 4 education forum in Auburn were asked to consider: “Are our children any less important than other children in New York State?”
The forum was part of a recent effort to spread information and get residents involved in changing state law to end injustice in how state aid to public schools has been distributed in recent years.
The forum, held at Auburn West Middle School, aimed to educate the public on the negative impacts of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) on aid to school districts. The event was hosted by the Central New York School Board Association and the Cayuga-Onondaga and Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, which include local districts Skaneateles, Jordan-Elbridge and Marcellus as members.
The evening’s featured speaker was Rick Timbs, the executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, an organization dedicated to bringing equity to the distribution of public school aid to districts.
Timbs was critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state law-makers for instituting the GEA, which is unfair and has had devastating effects on school districts and education across the state.
To reduce the state deficit, the GEA takes millions of dollars of aid away from school districts, despite that aid being already promised to them by a law, Timbs said.
“They figure out how much your school should get and then they don’t send it, they send another amount” Timbs said. “The cuts weren’t distributed properly, they weren’t equitable.”
The aid formula itself is also flawed and a combination of the two has led to inequitable distribution of aid, he said. Some of the wealthiest school districts in the state have been over-funded, while the poorer and average districts, such as those in the Cayuga-Onondaga and TST BOCES, have been underfunded. This underfunding has put many districts in serious financial trouble causing them to cut programs, cut staff or use reserve funds to balance their budgets.