Updated 05/24/2012 09:46 PM
Education advocates say state funding system has to change
For the last couple of years, school districts across the state have faced the difficult task of balancing a budget. Spending plans that often include cuts to programs and personnel are expected to fall within the governor's two percent property tax cap. All with less state funding to depend on than in the past. As YNN's Erin Clarke tells us, education advocates say something has to change and soon.
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NEW YORK STATE -- Another challenging school budget season was met with a first. Central New York School Districts all passed their budgets, even those that required a super majority, or vote of 60 percent, to exceed the governor's two percent property tax cap.
"Folks by and large, however they were connected to the education system, knew what the importance of this year was particularly based on the financial challenges that we faced over the last three years," said Central New York School Boards Association Executive Director Charles Borgognoni.
But communities are making sacrifices to get the job done.
"What they're, those school districts are doing is, by and large, is using parts of their fund balance, their rainy day funds to offset the short comings of the state funding system. Additionally, what they find that they're doing is actually laying off staff and diminishing programs," State Wide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Rick Timbs.
And education advocates say, despite creative approaches to the budget, students' futures will be in jeopardy if this continues.
"I don't believe that many school districts are able to provide a sound education at current funding level," said Campaign for Educational Equity Executive Director Michael Rebell.
An education lawyer, Rebell was co-counsel in the case that found that the state school funding system was unconstitutional. He's now a member of the governor's new New York Education Reform Commission.
"That commission has a broad mandate, but one of the specific focal points is funding and another focal point is relief for high need, low income districts," said Rebell.
School districts' money will soon run dry and although community support now is strong, New Yorkers want a long term solution.
"We need to study this problem quickly and come up with a solution quickly. And part of that solution is trying to figure out exactly what should be in this educational system, what schools must provide, how much that must cost and then what will be the state's responsibility to further that cause," said Timbs.
Rebell is confident that the law will win out. He hopes the commission will solve the problem, otherwise he says he and others aren't afraid to go back to court to battle for education.
Rebell was in the area to speak at the Central New York School Boards Association annual meeting.