CARS HOMES JOBS

Schenectady schools superintendent says state aid pressure essential

District facing $9.5M in budget reductions for next school year

Thursday, March 21, 2013
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— The state budget bills are being printed for 2013-14, but Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring said residents shouldn’t give up asking for school aid.

“Treat this as a marathon,” he said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. “My biggest fear is this is a sprint.”

Last summer, Spring began a campaign to fight for more aid for the Schenectady City School District, which receives 54 percent of the aid the state agreed in a court settlement was necessary for a basic education. Schenectady receives one of the lowest percentages of aid in the state, despite being one of the poorest districts.

Spring managed to get hundreds of people to join his campaign, but he said the new state budget will probably not fix the situation. For Schenectady to get the state funding it needs, he said, the state must change the way it funds schools — a change that might take years.

“We have to keep up the dialogue,” Spring said.

He also said residents should keep pushing for a decision on the $3.8 million in transportation aid that the state Education Department took from the district for making a minor clerical error in a legal ad.

The Education Department promised Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, that a decision would be made in February. Officials have declined to explain why they have not made the decision yet.

But letter-writing campaigns, meetings and speeches on Schenectady’s aid situation have produced some dividends. Spring said residents of other school districts have offered to donate money to Schenectady. “They said, ‘You’re getting the sharp end of the stick.’ ”

Legislators from other areas are also championing Schenectady.

“We’ve got some legislators outside our area saying this isn’t right,” Spring said.

He said he doesn’t know if the state budget legislation will include even a small increase in aid for Schenectady over the governor’s proposed budget. That portion of the budget hasn’t been printed yet. The school aid details will probably be available Saturday, he said.

Until then, Spring said he would continue to look for ways to cut $9.5 million from the 2013-2014 budget. That’s how much the district is short for the next school year’s $165 million budget. Spring said he would propose cuts at next Wednesday’s school board meeting.

His goal, he said, is “to improve the quality of what we’re trying to do here, for $9.5 million less.”

School board members told Spring that even if the budget bills don’t include any more money for Schenectady, they appreciated his effort.

“I salute you for not just saying, ‘This is a boulder that can never be rolled up this hill,’ ” board member Andrew Chestnut said. “You found creative ways to get it rolled up as far as we’ve gotten it.”

 
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